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Speech team welcomes colleges from six different states to compete in various public speaking categories
The Liberty University Forensic Speech team hosted 10 schools from six different states to compete in the fourth-annual Liberty University Speech Invitational Saturday, Sept. 28th.
The initial two rounds of the tournament began at 9 a.m. in DeMoss Hall and continued until 3 p.m. During this time, the students split into different rooms and showcased their talents in front of a judge as they gave several speeches from a wide variety of categories. These included dramatic readings, persuasive arguments, extemporaneous speeches, poetry, informative speeches, impromptu speeches and several others.
“What you look for in the students is the creation of character and the flow of the story,” Jodi Nevola, the director of forensics at Suffolk University in Boston, said in regards to judging the dramatic speeches. “I write down things that I think are going to help them improve the performance for next time as well as what I liked.”
According to Nevola, the students were ranked in order to determine who would make it into the final round of the tournament. At 3:30 p.m., the finalists competed to determine who would win the top prize for each category.
“They are going to get my comments at the end of the tournament,” Nevola said. “My role as an educator is to help these guys understand my perspective and help them improve their performance, while at the same time, I’m watching for my own students to see how they do it down here at the Liberty tournament.”
George Mason University (GMU) ended up with the highest overall score among student speeches. The top students from each category are eligible to enter national tournaments.
Freshman Robert Quel from Liberty said he felt there was more encouragement than bitter competition between the various schools.
“From my experience in forensics, it’s not at all a competitive sport,” Quel said. “I mean, we compete, but we all kind of appreciate what we do. It’s a very select group of people who do this.”
Preparation for the informational and dramatic speeches involved much research and practice. Senior Ashley Hendricks from Bowling Green State University said her dramatic speech from the perspective of advice columnist Ann Landers took an extensive amount of preparation.
“This (speech) I’ve been practicing since July, cutting it, putting it together and coming up with the intro,” Hendricks said. “(I have been) coming up with all of the emotion, background stories and that sort of thing since July, along with other events that I do.”
Sachi Barstein, a senior from GMU, said much of the preparation for the speeches was dedicated to the research and finding the right sources. One of her speeches was a duo act with Sean Cummings, another GMU student, which told the story of the gorgon Medusa from a sympathetic perspective.
“We thought the story was interesting, but we couldn’t find one continuous story on it because of how little it’s told,” Barstein said. “It took us a while. We had a good amount of time finding the literature, then putting it together, trying to find a story. It took us a good few weeks.”
The speeches were not the only aspect of the tournament that involved preparation. According to Colin Dowd, the forensics coach for Liberty, organizing the event took nearly a year of preparation and planning.
“The team has been working on this tournament for about three weeks, but I have been putting stuff together for this for about a year,” Dowd said. “Once the last tournament ended, I started networking to get the amount of schools that I wanted for this tournament here.”
Dowd said one of the most important and difficult aspects that many of the competitors struggle with when coming up with speech topics is finding out what they are passionate about.
“It’s really kind of sad how as a society we have really lost touch with what we are passionate about,” Dowd said. “My job is to find topics that are legitimately relevant, and they could actually help because there are things that sometimes we don’t pay attention to.”
Dowd, who started the team with Josh Wade during his freshman year at Liberty, feels that the Liberty forensics team has developed significantly during its four year history.
“We’ve just kind of changed it, molded it and grown it essentially to what it is today,” Dowd said. “When we first started, we were 300th in the nation, but last year, we actually finished 30th in the nation. So we’ve grown