Fresno State debate team is turning heads

FRESNO, Calif.

They call themselves the "Barking Bulldogs" and it's easy to see why. The 14 member debate team at Fresno State is turning heads.

Students Sierra Holley and Candis Tate broke into the elimination rounds at Wake Forest University's Shirley Classic, where they beat Harvard, the second best team in the nation.

"It was supposed to be a slaughter," said Sierra Holley. "They expected to win and when we found out the decision and we won and they lost they were upset."

Candis Tate added, "That was definitely my favorite win because there's a hierarchy expected for certain teams to win even if they don't win the debate."

This is Fresno State's third year with an active debate team after nearly a decade hiatus. But it's already the top team in District 1 which includes schools like UC Berkeley, Arizona State, Stanford and UNLV.

In October, it made history when students Nadia Lewis and Jamila Ahmed became the first two African-American non-traditional speakers to ever win first and second place individual awards at a tournament in Kentucky .

"We have a very diverse team, different racial backgrounds, economic backgrounds, social backgrounds and our arguments range from all different types," said Director Deven Cooper. "We go from very traditional policy debate to very alternative styles of debate."

Cooper attributes the team's success to its versatility and hard work.

Holley added, "We're often here until midnight or passed midnight."

And team members say they spend about four hours a day preparing for competitions despite full time jobs, children and a full course schedule.

The best part for them -- collecting quirky awards like poker chips, barbeque sauce and beer mugs from cross-country competitions. As well as taking other teams by surprise while putting Fresno on the map.

"They're like Fresno just beat everyone in the district," said Coach Marvin Carter Jr. "So it's like who has a target on their back? Probably the Bulldogs right now."

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