Spencer Harris, a 2004 Blue Springs High School graduate, won the national forensics championship

Despite making a decision nearly four years ago to quit debate and forensics, Blue Springs High School graduate Spencer Harris has become a success once again in the activity that he had once decided to forgo.

Harris, now a senior at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., has won two top national tournaments in the last month. He won the inaugural Lincoln Douglas Open Championships National Tournament April 4 and then went onto win the national championship in Lincoln Douglas debate at the National Forensics Association National Tournament April 18.

Although a student at Missouri State, Harris competes for Drury University, also in Springfield. Because he takes one class at Drury, he is eligible to compete for the school.

“It feels great to do so well in the event,” he said. “Part of my success can certainly be attributed to the Drury team, as it is home to a great coaching staff and supportive peers. To win two national championships in college was incredible. The first one just felt like a monkey off my back, and the second one was certainly the icing on the cake. It was a wonderful way to end my debate career.”

Harris, a 2004 graduate of Blue Springs High School, left high school debate at the top. He was the 2004 state champion in extemporaneous speaking and placed sixth in the event at nationals the same year. In addition, he placed first in the nation among the 63,630 active members in the 2003-04 school year of the National Forensics League.

But the summer before he entered Missouri State, Harris made the decision to not participate in forensics or debate. The reason – he wanted to do other things in college than the one activity that dominated his high school experience.

So why make the decision to return to debate?

Harris said after adjusting to college life, he chose to re-enter the program, but at Drury University instead. After going between the two programs for a few months, he chose to stay at Missouri State, but compete for the Drury team – a decision he is happy he made.

“College debate is very much what I expected,” he said. “It is more research intensive, it is more time consuming, and it requires much more personal devotion than high school. But, the activity is so intellectually stimulating and engaging that I really felt like I was less challenged when I wasn’t participating in debate.”

Harris, who received a degree in socio-political communication this month, said forensics and debate has been “invaluable” to him. His advice to future collegiate debaters – “you can only be as successful as you choose to be.” He plans to remain at Missouri State next fall and work toward a masters degree in communications.

“Through debate, I have learned so many skills that I can use as a student and as a professional. It truly is the most rewarding activity for a student, as it enhances all of the things that students need – research and study skills, time management critical thinking, etc.,” he said. “I was very fortunate to have an incredible high school coach (Sherri Shumaker at Blue Springs) who taught me that the essence of success is preparation. I often thought that the “practice makes perfect” line was a true cliché, she taught me that practice truly does make perfect.”