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Debate team earns national rankings, individual awards


ACU debate team ranks No. 17 in the nation for 2019-20.
ACU debate team ranks No. 17 in the nation for 2019-20.

Abilene Christian University’s forensics and debate team earned several national rankings from the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) after competing in nine tournaments during the 2019-20 school year.

ACU competed against teams from The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, University of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, Stephen F. Austin University, University of Arkansas, University of Texas-Tyler, Mississippi State University, Tennessee Tech University, and many others.

Among 128 colleges and universities in the IPDA, ACU ranked:

  • Overall – #17 in the nation

  • Top 10 school in the nation – Junior Varsity Squad

  • Top 20 school in the nation – Novice Squad

  • Top 20 school in the nation – Varsity Squad

Individual members of the ACU team also were recognized with top honors:

  • Shekinah Kahongo, senior political science major from Houston, Texas, placed sixth in the nation in JV against 306 competitors.

  • Kahongo; Elijah Biedinger, sophomore business management major from San Antonio, Texas; Garrett Bonner, sophomore information systems major from Pampa, Texas; and Alexandria Ritchie, senior business marketing major from Abilene, Texas, all ranked in the top 8 percent or better nationally in their divisions. All divisions have at least 300 competitors.

IPDA announced that Abilene Christian will host the 2021 National Championship Tournament and Convention. Sheila Ritchie, ACU director of forensics and debate, has been elected to serve a three-year term on the IPDA Governing Board.

“Having the national tournament at ACU will be a great opportunity to show schools from across the nation the spirit and mission of ACU,” she said. “Our debaters have been exceptional, and many will be returning next year for what I anticipate will be another excellent year.”

In February, ACU hosted the Joseph J. Cardot Invitational Tournament, the university’s first invitational debate tournament on the ACU campus in 50 years. The team plans to host this tournament annually. Its namesake is longtime Department of Communication and Sociology professor Dr. Joe Cardot.

Abilene Christian is the highest-ranking university in Texas in a 2020 U.S. News & World Report benchmark focused on student success. ACU achieved Top 20 status in three of eight high-impact categories among 1,500 universities evaluated for “A Focus on Student Success” and is the only Texas institution to be ranked in five of the categories. Learn more at

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