Fork Union Military Academy Debate Team Takes First Place in Student Congress at State Meet

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The debate team from Fork Union Military Academy won first place in the Student Congress category, and the team placed third overall, in the Virginia Catholic Forensics League state debate tournament on March 11th. Three cadets qualified to go on to compete at the National Catholic Forensics League tournament in May.

Cadet Michael Head won first place in Student Congress at the Virginia state debate tournament.

Cadet Michael Head won first place in Student Congress at the Virginia state debate tournament.

I could not be more proud of these three individuals. Each of these young men is dedicated to his craft-their hard work and persistence in spite of the challenges that attending military school presents are a true testament to their character.

The Fork Union Military Academy debate team participated in the Virginia Catholic Forensics League (VCFL) state debate tournament on Saturday, March 11th at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County, Virginia. The team placed first in the sub-category of Student Congress, third overall. Fork Union Military Academy is an historic college prep boarding school for boys located in central Virginia and founded in 1898.

Team points are accumulated based on individual performances in three debate categories: Student Congress, Public Forum (a two-on-two style debate), and Lincoln-Douglas. Fork Union had cadets competing in only two of the three categories: Student Congress and Public Forum. According to Fork Union's debate coach, Mike Goad, "We knew that we were going to do well in Student Congress. Year in and year out, this is our strongest category. I really thought our three Public Forum teams had a shot at making it to the finals. Their arguments were strong, and they were well prepared. However, when you're at the discretion of human judges, things do not always go as planned. They left nothing on the table."

The three schools accumulating the most individual points in these three categories get to take home a sweepstakes trophy from the state tournament. "Our goal this year was to 'trophy' at states. We wanted to bring home the hardware. The schools we compete against have much larger student bodies, making it easier for them to disperse talented students in all three categories of debate. We knew our backs were against the wall by only having cadets in two of three categories, but we refused to let this hindrance be an excuse," said Goad. Despite not having members qualify in the Lincoln-Douglas category, Fork Union was able to achieve their pre-season goal of bringing a sweepstakes trophy back to campus, something the debate team has failed to do in recent history.

Anchoring the team's overall success was the team's first place finish in the Student Congress sub-category where Fork Union placed three cadets in the top-four, guaranteeing each of these students a spot at the National Catholic Forensic League's (NCFL) national tournament to be held on Memorial Day weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Student Congress category is run much like the House or Senate chamber, wherein students debate bills submitted by each school on VCFL-mandated topics. Two, two-hour sessions of legislative debate are completed at each meet. The state meet's hottest topics included bills on the following: dissolution of the Department of Education, One-China Policy, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and Medicare/Medicaid Expansion.

Cadet Michael Patrick Head successfully defended his 2016 individual state title by winning first place in the Student Congress category of debate at the 2017 Virginia Catholic Forensics League (VCFL) state debate tournament held at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County, Virginia on March 11, 2017. Head's first-place finish qualifies him for his second consecutive trip to the National Catholic Forensics League’s (NCFL) national tournament, which will take place Memorial Day weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Michael has been an invaluable asset to our team’s success this year,” said Fork Union Military Academy’s debate coach, Mike Goad. “His uncanny ability to control the chamber and set fellow cadets up for success played a major role in our third-place team finish in the tournament overall, despite having cadets only competing in two of three debate categories.”

Following his success at the state meet, Head acknowledged those who prepared him for this moment, saying, “I can honestly say that what fueled my individual victory was the training I received in every discipline of congressional debate over the last four years, compounded with the feeling that I would be letting down those who trained me if I did not succeed.”

"Our chances to ‘trophy’ were contingent on Michael defending his 2016 title," said Goad. Those first-place points were essential. He was able to go in there and get the job done—there was never any doubt in my mind that he would."

According to Goad, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cadet Head filling the same legislative seat that his father currently holds, representing Virginia's 17th district in the Virginia House of Delegates. “Michael eats, sleeps, and breathes legislative debate. It is his passion—his sport, if you will. I would not be at all surprised to see him serving our state or federal government one day as an elected official. Who knows, maybe he will take over for his father one day—I put nothing past this talented young man.”

Cadet Head, a senior, is the son of Christopher and Elizabeth Head of Roanoke, Virginia. He has attended Fork Union Military Academy since August 2013 when he enrolled as a freshman.

Cadet Joshua James Henriques earned a fourth place finish in the Student Congress category at the Virginia Catholic Forensics League (VCFL) state debate tournament held at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County, Virginia on March 11, 2017. His finish in the top four qualifies him to move on to compete in the national tournament sponsored by the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) to be held Memorial Day weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. 

“Joshua just missed a top-five finish last year at states, which would have qualified him for nationals. He was disappointed, but I think he used that disappointment as a motivating factor this year,” said Mike Goad, Fork Union Military Academy’s debate coach. Joshua knew he had to finish in the top five for us to achieve our goals as a team, and he did just that,” said Goad.

Henriques humbly gave credit to his teammates and God following his state meet success, saying, “It was a huge team effort. A lot of great leadership was shown from the entire team. I thank God for the opportunity to compete and be successful. Hopefully the skills that I am perfecting will help my aspirations for the future.”

“I am really looking forward to having Joshua back as a member of the debate team next year," said debate team coach Mike Goad. "I think his success at states this year will propel him to a strong season next year—an individual state championship is not out of the question for him.”

Henriques has been accepted to the Summer Seminar at the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as the Summer Leaders Program at West Point, and he hopes to attend one of these academies upon graduating from Fork Union Military Academy in 2018.

Cadet Henriques, a junior, is the son of Miguel and Pauline Henriques of West Nyack, New York. He has attended Fork Union Military Academy since August 2013 when he enrolled as an eighth grader.

Cadet William Humphrey Pessaud earned a third place finish in the Student Congress category at the Virginia Catholic Forensics League (VCFL) state debate tournament held at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County, Virginia on March 11, 2017. His finish in the top three qualifies him to move on to compete in the national tournament sponsored by the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) to be held Memorial Day weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Pessaud’s success, despite being a first-year member of the team, should not come as a surprise, says Fork Union Military Academy debate coach, Mike Goad. “This young man reads de Tocqueville’s 'Democracy in America' during his free time," Goad explains. "He was actually reading it between the first and second session during lunch at the state meet. He actively follows and studies the American system of government and is passionate about his views, but more importantly, he knows how to debate those views objectively, with sound research and statistics.”

"I am thankful that all of the hard work the team put in paid off," said Cadet Pessaud following his tournament success, "and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

On William returning to the team next year, coach Goad stated, “I am very excited to see how William’s success at states rolls over into next year. He will have some strong competition from fellow cadets, but there is no reason that he cannot bring home an individual state title next year. I am sure by this point next year, he will have read a few hundred more books, which can only bode well for our team."

Cadet Pessaud, a junior, is the son of Mary Jane Pessaud of Alexandria, Virginia. He has attended Fork Union Military Academy since August 2014 when he enrolled as a freshman.

"I could not be more proud of these three individuals. Each of these young men is dedicated to his craft-their hard work and persistence in spite of the challenges that attending military school presents are a true testament to their character. I look forward to seeing how they stack up against the competition at nationals," said Goad.

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Dan Thompson
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