An invitation to Heart of America, long considered the toughest tournament on the national debate circuit, has resulted in a third-place trophy for Southern Utah State College debaters Dave Sproul and Melinda Riding.

Heart of America is hosted by the University of Kansas and has been, up until this year, held strictly for NDT (National Debate Topic) competition. The decision to include CEDA (Cross Examination Debate Association) debate opened the doors to the SUSC duo, which placed third among the 48 participating CEDA teams."This represents the best performance by an SUSC team this year and probably one of the best ever," said a pleased Tom Murphy, the SUSC debate coach and director of forensics. SUSC hasn't been invited to the exclusive tournament since 1983, he continued, and that was in NDT competition.

"Heart has long been respected as the toughest tournament on the NDT circuit," Murphy said. Only the top-ranked forensic powers are invited to participate, and this year invitations were extended to the top 40 CEDA schools.

Sproul (sophomore, Frazier Park, Calif.) and Riding (junior, New Harmony) have been consistent contenders for SUSC all season, with strong finishes at a number of impressive tournaments, most recently the Saluki national at Southern Illinois University.

The SUSC team defeated Washburn University, the University of California-Berkeley, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and San Jose State University in the Heart of America preliminaries.

In the elimination rounds, they defeated Macalester College (St. Paul, Minn.) in the octafinal round and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the quarterfinal round before losing to another Macalester team in the semifinals.

"It was an uphill battle all the way," Murphy said. "The team was 2-2 in the preliminary rounds after the first day of competition and had to win its two remaining rounds to advance to the octafinals."

Seeded 13th in the elimination rounds, they defeated the No. 4 and 5 seeds before losing to top-seeded Macalester in the semifinals.