The University of Nebraska-Lincoln speech and debate team became six-time champions of the Big Ten with its victory at the Conference Challenge Tournament Jan. 22 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Nebraska garnered 212 points total, ahead of second-place finisher Northwestern with 152 points. In addition to the team championship, Nebraska’s competitors captured nine of 12 individual titles.
Senior and co-captain Jonathan Baker of Hickman led the team’s victory by earning top individual speaker honors. Baker took individual titles in after-dinner speaking, prose interpretation and duo interpretation, with his partner, junior Mattison Merritt of Lincoln. Mattison also won dramatic interpretation. Fellow senior co-captain Christian Rush of Bellevue took top honors in informative speaking. Juniors Chloe Meier of Roca and Erin Sheehan of Omaha won poetry interpretation and communication analysis. The future of the team was well represented with sophomore Rebecca Human of Gretna winning extemporaneous speaking and sophomore Madison Morrissette of Omaha winning persuasive speaking.
“This was a testament to our teamwork and commitment to each other,” Baker said. “We perform as individuals, but we compete as a team and support each other as a team.”
Aaron Duncan, director of the university’s speech and debate program, said coaching the team is an honor because of their hard work and dedication.
“They do not compete for the roar of the crowd or big scholarships,” Duncan said. “They do it because they like a challenge, because knowledge intrigues them, because they want to raise the level of discourse in our society, and because they care passionately about the topics they pursue.”
Both parts of the team have been competing since September and are preparing for their national tournaments at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire in April.
Duncan also noted that associate director Allison Bonander was the tournament director – the youngest ever – an honor bestowed by a conference committee.