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Arguing Bucs Make History with Award-Winning Season

April 19, 2021

The Arguing Bucs have made history at Whitworth University, ending their season as national champions.

The International Public Debate Association counts a school’s six best tournaments in season-long standings. With Whitworth capturing wins in both the varsity and junior varsity divisions at the IDPA’s national tournament April 9-11, Whitworth’s forensics team secured the title of national champions. 

This season, the forensics team competed against more than 150 schools and 1,000 debaters in IDPA competitions. They placed first five times, second three times, and third once. 

During the final competition, Tricia Cebotari ’24 won the junior varsity division of the tournament, going undefeated in 13 rounds. 

National runner-up Jericho Simone ’22 took second place in the varsity division, winning 11 of 13 rounds. 

The team took second place in tournament sweepstakes out of 62 teams. Whitworth finished ahead of national and regional rivals including Boise State University, Mississippi State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 

In the varsity division, Drew Lorenc ’23 was a quarterfinalist (elite eight), Skye Gordon ’23 and Aidan Hollister ’23 were octafinalists (sweet 16), and Sanjay Philip ’22 was a double octafinalist (round of 32). The top three speakers were Sanjay Philip, Jericho Simone and Chauncella Koulibali ’22 (out of 94 debaters)

In the junior varsity division, Nathan Cooper ’24 and Celeste Riley-Norman ’23 were double octafinalists (round of 32). Riley-Norman was the third best speaker (out of 102 debaters).

In the novice division, Emma Maple ’24 was the eighth best speaker (out of 100 debaters) 

Season-long speaking awards in varsity went to Jericho Simone, taking third place, Chauncella Koulibali, taking fourth place, and Aidan Hollister, taking 10th place.

Season-long speaking awards in junior varsity went to Tricia Cebotari, taking third place, Kacie Foster ’23, taking eighth place, Skye Gordon, taking ninth place, and Payton Lo ’23, taking 11th place. 

Guest judges at the national tournament included Elizabeth Jacobs Bone ’17, Jacob Farrell ’19, Daniel Giorello ’20, Addy Koneval ’16, Bri Miller ’15, Rebecca Korf ’16 and past national champion Travis Walker ’12. 

The team is coached by Professor of Communication Studies Mike Ingram and assistant coaches Stephanie Gibbons ’15 and Lori Welch ’90. 

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Michael Ingram, professor of communication studies, director of forensics, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4428 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or