Forensics team places first at local debate competition on their way to nationals


Francesca Bishop, Forensics team coordinator, and team president Michael Wagreich at separately conducted zoom interviews. Pictures by Abigail Puente, graphic by Jeniffer Torres/ The Union.

The Forensics team came in first place at the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association Spring Championships, the last large local tournament before nationals.

With nearly eight tournaments attended since the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, El Camino College’s Forensics team has won first place at all but one of them. Their latest win was at a tournament which lasted from Feb. 26 to 28.

President of the Forensics team, 19-year-old Michael Wagreich, has been debating since his sophomore year in high school but is now in his second year with the ECC team.

“I wanted to join El Camino for the Forensics team,” Wagreich said. “With going online, I saw that there weren’t a lot of second year returning students and I knew that from my experience of having been a part of the team for a year, having that guidance would be really helpful.”

Wagreich and his partner Josiah Edwards ended in second place for parliamentary debate for the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association Spring Championships (PSCFA) tournament.

“One of the biggest achievements I would say is the outcome of the PSCFA Spring Championship,” Wagreich said. “The Spring Championship is one we all look forward to and overall, the team was great.”

The team will go on to three different national tournaments including the National Parliamentary Debate Association, which is mainly for four-year schools but where El Camino College remains the reigning champion community college. They will also attend the community college national tournament, Phi Rho Pi.

The third national tournament to come is the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, where individual debate pairs amass enough points throughout the year to be invited. Five team-members from ECC have been invited, two pairs and one who will pair with a CSU Long Beach debater.

Francesca Bishop, communication studies professor and Forensics team coordinator, is getting the word out about the team differently this year. Usually, members would be recruited during club rush, but this year Bishop attended a meeting of the Associated Student’s Organization virtually and made a pitch there.

Bishop also sent flyers to the Honors Transfer Program so they could distribute them to students.

With a total of 19 members this year, there are five returning members.

“One of the biggest achievements we’ve had this year with the team is maintaining the size,” Bishop said. “Considering that we never met most of the members in real life, we have a pretty good culture.”

Kaiyl McClain, 19, found out about the Forensics team through the Honors Transfer Program, and joined because she hoped to meet new people.

“Although I had never debated before, Bishop & Brittany Hubble made sure to assure me that I belonged even though I questioned it,” McClain said

Although McClain is disappointed at never having an in-person experience in competitions or tournaments, she said she is grateful to have the experience she’s had with the Forensics team.

“We send off members to a debate by telling them to have fun,” Bishop said. “Part of our mission is education but because of our philosophy, we actually win more than if we [had] a different philosophy.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 3 for clarity