PLNU’s Speech and Debate Team Starts the Season with a Bang

Photo Credit to Noelle Planchon. The PLNU debate team preps before their next debate round at the PSCFA Warm Up Scrimmage held at El Camino College.

Point Loma Nazarene University’s Speech and Debate team won eight honors of distinction at their season opener – the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association (PSCFA) Warm Up Scrimmage at El Camino College held on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The debate team won the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Champion title last season after the yearlong sweepstakes race, having the most cumulative points from their tournaments than any other university.

According to one of the team captains, Noelle Planchon, a second-year business administration major, the team hopes to continue their legacy this year. 

“Going forward it just set a precedent for our team to just continue to keep the standards high, teach others, and be good role models,” said Planchon. 

At the PSCFA Warm Up Scrimmage, the majority of the novices got honors of distinction from either a 4-0 or 3-1 record.

According to Skip Rutledge, who has been the director of forensics and one of the coaches for 35 years, the team has more novices than usual this season who have jumped into debate with a passion.

Second-year sociology and Spanish double major Cianna Jones and her debate partner, Andrea Wuerth, went 4-0 and received a certificate of superiority, winning the entire novice section. 

This was their first tournament and first semester in the debate club. 

“It was super cool. I had never done debate before so going into it, I was a little like not concerned, but maybe like reserved because I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Jones. “I know I’m a pretty good public speaker and I know I can work my way around a lot of arguments. I knew I could handle some stuff, but to what magnitude, like I don’t know.” 

Photo credit to Cianna Jones. Partners Cianna Jones and Andrea Wuerth at the PSCFA Warm Up Scrimmage at El Camino College. 

According to Rutledge, debate offers students the ability to grow their confidence in public speaking, while exercising their work ethic, intelligence and the ability to pivot with competitiveness and presence.

“One of the things I tell the debate class on the first day is ‘this is my second favorite day of the year because I get to see you walking in without this debate background, but on the last day of the semester I get to see how much you’ve grown and changed,’” said Rutledge. “As a student, for me, speech and debate was easily the most important course I ever took, and meant the most to me.”

According to Rutledge, at the end of each year, if accumulative points in the NPDA were totaled over the last 25 plus years, PLNU would be number one by a “huge margin.”

Planchon said debate has taught her life skills, like research and being succinct, that she can apply for the rest of her life. 

“Research skills is something that’s so important. Like a lot of people still don’t know how to find good sources and give summaries of articles, people just get so confused,” said Planchon. “And I think debate has helped so much because you are given like literally 15 minutes and you have to learn this topic and debate about it for an hour even though you’ve never heard about it before.” 

The PLNU Speech and Debate team hosted the Sunset Cliffs Classic tournament on campus during fall break, from Oct. 20-22. 

For more information about the Speech and Debate team and how to get involved, email Skip Rutledge at