The UNL speech and debate team finished its 143rd season on a high note with strong performances at two national tournaments.
UNL speech students placed seventh in the nation and first among all teams from the Big Ten Conference competing at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) on April 5-7 on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. A total of 88 schools and 500 students competed at the tournament. With this win, the speech team placed in the top 10 for the sixth straight year and in the top 20 teams for the 19th straight year.
The highlights of the national tournament included senior and Lincoln native Grace Kluck being named to the National All-American team, senior Josh Planos of Omaha placing fourth in Program Oral Interpretation, junior Reece Ristau of Omaha placing fifth in Communication Analysis, and senior Amanda Stoffel of Raymond placing sixth in Communication Analysis. Aaron Duncan, director of speech and debate, also received the District Four Outstanding Coach Award.
“Grace, Josh, Reece and Amanda are amazingly dedicated students and their success at the national tournament is a direct reflection of the hundreds of hours they devoted to practice and competitions this season,” Duncan said. “We have amazing students and coaches in our UNL program and I am incredibly proud of all of them.”
Only the top 10 percent of student speakers nationally qualify to compete at the AFA-NIET tournament and only the top 15 percent of those select students advance to elimination rounds at the competition. This year, 19 UNL students qualified for the tournament in 70 different events and 12 advanced to elimination rounds. Kluck became the seventh UNL student in the last 10 years to be named to the AFA-NEIT All-American Team, which includes 12 students from around the country who have demonstrated excellence in classroom, in their communities and in competitive speech.
On April 18-21, representatives from UNL’s Debate team competed at the National Forensics Association’s Tournament of Champions (NFA-TC) on the campus of Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and captured eighth place. Junior Derrick Stevens and freshman Jackson Slechta, both of Lincoln, led the young debate squad each compiling a 4-2 preliminary record before losing on 2-1 decisions in elimination rounds. Overall, the UNL team finished with 48 points and tied with Rice University.
“We have a wonderful group of debaters on the team committed to the ideals of argumentation and advocacy,” Duncan said. “If our young students on the team continue to work hard and stay committed, the sky is the limit for what they can achieve.”
UNL was only one of two teams in the nation to place in top 10 at both AFA-NIET and the NFA-TC.
Among other season highlights was the team’s win at the Conference Challenge Tournament at Northwestern University, where the team claimed UNL’s third Big Ten Tournament victory.
“The success of the team would not be possible without incredible support from the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, special donors and UNL’s commitment to recruit the best and brightest student speakers from across the state and nation,” Duncan said.
“Speech and debate have been part of the university from the beginning,’ communication studies department chair Dawn O. Braithwaite said. “I am continually moved by the outstanding talent and commitment to excellence demonstrated by these UNL student speakers and their coaches.”
The speech and debate team is part of UNL’s Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. The department explores human communication as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions and societies. Its main areas of expertise are interpersonal and family communication, organizational communication, and rhetoric and public culture. For more information on the department or the speech and debate team, go to http://comm.unl.edu/.