NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin State University Debate Team successfully completed its 2016-17 season by acquiring more than 30 accolades, including recognition at the International Public Debate Association's national tournament held March 23-26 in Russellville, Arkansas.

This year marked the association's 20th anniversary and hosted competing students from 132 U.S. colleges and universities.

The IPDA debate season features individual and team debate competitions in four divisions: novice, junior varsity, varsity and professional. At each competition, awards are presented to the top three finalists for both single and team debate with separate honors awarded for eloquence and speaking.

During the association's culminating tournament, season-long awards also were presented to participating debate programs. 

During the 2016-17 IPDA debate season, members of SFA's 12-person debate team took home nine awards in both team and individual debate formats and 12 top-10 awards for speaking eloquence.

Graduating seniors Fernando Penate-Chavez and Michael Moreck partnered for team (duo) debate and ended their season as the second-place season-long team among 112 team combinations. Penate-Chavez also finished ninth in varsity-level among 224 competitors.

"It's definitely been quite an experience. It's been a great year with an amazing debate partner and friend," said Penate-Chavez. "Mike and I have been debating since I was a freshman, and this was our best year by far."

Additional contributions to this year's SFA debate season included Sydney Reed, a first-year novice debater, who finished ninth among a field of 108 competitors at the tournament.

"We're thrilled with our performance this year," said Kimberly Squyres Wagner, lecturer in SFA's Department of Languages, Culture and Communication and director of SFA's Debate Team. "Of course, the end of every season feels bittersweet because we say goodbye to our graduating seniors. Fortunately for our team, we have promising young talent like Sydney, whom we hope to move into more competitive divisions. Plus, we're always recruiting."

The team is already preparing for the 2017-18 season. Team tryouts are held throughout the academic year. Students securing placement on the team will join the division that most suits their skills. No previous debate experience is required to tryout; however, students should demonstrate a willingness to learn.

In addition to competing, the SFA Debate Team also partners with local high school students for a mentoring program and assists with coordinating and overseeing University Interscholastic League and collegiate debate competitions.

For more information, contact Wagner at or (936) 468-1086.