The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s speech and debate team capped an unusual season with historic success.
The debate team finished second in Lincoln Douglas at the National Forensic Association’s Tournament, held online April 16-19. The national runner-up finish is the highest in the team’s 150-year history. The speech squad finished sixth at the American Forensic Association’s National Speech Tournament, which took place online April 2-5.
“This a special group of students,” Aaron Duncan, director of speech and debate, said. “The pandemic turned our activity upside down this year. Tournaments moved online, coaching took place through Zoom, and our team room had to be closed to ensure social distancing. It is hard to create a positive team culture and bond when students cannot see each other in person for most of the year, but these students persevered. They demonstrated exceptional grit and it has resulted in a wonderful season that brought glory to themselves and their university.”
The debate performance was led by senior Addisson Stugart of Omaha, and sophomore Nicholas Wallenburg of Lenexa, Kansas, who both finished 7-2 and each advanced to the quarterfinal round of the tournament. This was the first time Nebraska has had two students in the top eight at the national tournament. This was the fourth consecutive year Nebraska has finished in the top five in the nation in Lincoln Douglas Debate and the 11th consecutive year the team has finished in the top 15.
“It’s a really incredible result given the year that we have gone through and the journey to get here and I could not be prouder of them,” said Justin Kirk, director of debate.
The team’s success in debate comes on the heels of its achievements early this month at the National Speech Tournament. The tournament was highlighted by junior Clare Frances Kennedy of Franklin, Tennessee, who placed fourth in impromptu speaking, sixth in dramatic interpretation, and was the eighth overall speaker at the tournament. Other Huskers placing at the tournament included senior Cole Shardelow of Hastings who placed seventh in impromptu speaking; senior Kendra Quiroz of Hastings who placed 10th in poetry interpretation and eighth in duo interpretation with partner Philomena Williams of Kansas City, Missouri; and junior Ben Czapla of Lincoln who placed ninth in informative speaking and 10th in duo Iiterpretation with Kennedy. Both Shardelow and fellow senior Sydney Brun-Ozuna of Fort Worth, Texas, were named at the tournament to the National All-American Team. The sixth place finish was the second highest in team history.
“We are so fortunate to work with such motivated and passionate students every day,” said Allison Bonander, director of speech. “I am beyond proud of the way this team has pulled together, pushed themselves and each other to be better and have their voices heard.”
“Nebraska is one of two teams in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both speech and Lincoln Douglas debate,” Duncan said. “Our success is the direct result of the support from the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, alumni, and the Chancellor’s Office. We are lucky to have university administration and a community on campus that values and supports the work these students have done.”
The speech and debate team is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. For more information on the department or the speech and debate team, visit the Communication Studies website.