McKendree University Speech and Debate Team Wins Three National Championships, 21 Awards at Nationals

(LEBANON, Ill., May 5, 2022) – The McKendree University Speech and Debate Team completed its season with three national championships: Taylor Roth in interviewing, Jayden Touchette in extemporaneous speaking, and Aaron Brown and Emma McIlhargie in novice parliamentary debate. The team took home a total of 21 awards over the course of four national tournaments: Pi Kappa Delta Nationals (PKD), the National Speech Championship (NSC), the National Parliamentary Debate Association Championship Tournament (NPDA), and the National Forensic Association Championship Tournament (NFA).

“Our seniors, Kyle Garrett and Kyle Smith, finished their debate careers in a national final, while our first-years, Aaron Brown and Emma McIlhargie, as well as our sophomores, Taylor Roth and Jayden Touchette, took home national championships,” said Joe Blasdel, director of speech and debate. “This is both an excellent end to this year and bodes well for the future. I am very proud of the work put forward by our students and coaches in this very difficult year.”

Sixty-nine universities, including Cornell University, Rice University, and Pennsylvania State University, attended PKD, which was held at the University of Central Florida from March 10 through 12. In varsity NPDA debate, Garrett and Smith posted a 4-1 record. After defeating Simpson College in quarterfinals and Morehouse College in semifinals, they finished in second place. Brown and McIlhargie went 3-2 and advanced to novice finals, where they beat Point Loma Nazarene College for the win. Touchette was the Top Superior in extemporaneous speaking, while both Touchette and McIlhargie were Excellent in impromptu speaking. McKendree placed as Excellent (top 20 percent) in debate sweepstakes.

NSC was held virtually March 19-20. Roth took first place in interviewing and also won a paid internship with the 180 Group for this summer. She also reached quarterfinals in extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking, dramatic interpretation, and programmed oral interpretation.

NPDA was virtual as well and occurred from March 25 through 27. Garrett and Smith posted a 5-3 record, finishing as octofinalists (ninth place). Jamari Jackson and Jayden Touchette went 4-4, placing as double octofinalists (17th place). Finally, Brown and McIlhargie had an even record and advanced to novice finals, finishing in second place. Garrett was the 12th place speaker and also selected for the All-American team. Rebecca, the wife of the late assistant coach Zach Schneider, accepted the Distinguished Service Award on his behalf, making Zach only the third person in the history of the organization to be so recognized. McKendree placed eighth in tournament sweepstakes as well as 11th in season sweepstakes.

Finally, McKendree attended NFA, hosted by Illinois State University from April 15 through 18. Touchette advanced to semifinals in impromptu speaking – the farthest a McKendree student has advanced since 2008 – after placing second in her octofinal round and winning her quarterfinal round. She also finished as an octofinalist in extemporaneous speaking and programmed oral interpretation, while both she and Roth were octofinalists in dramatic interpretation. Together, they combined to take fifth place in limited entry sweepstakes.


PKD Banquet

Pictured in the PKD Banquet photo are (front): Kyle Smith, Kyle Garrett, Jayden Touchette; (back) Taylor Roth, Emma McIlhargie, Aaron Brown, and Naya Busbea.


NPDA photo

Pictured in the NPDA photo are (front): Kyle Smith, Kyle Garrett, Jamari Jackson; (back) Aaron Brown, Emma McIlhargie, and Jayden Touchette.


NFA photo

Pictured in the NFA photo are Taylor Roth and Jayden Touchette.