|Forensics makes national impact
By Lindsay Stordahl
The Cobber Forensics team made an impact at nationals.
About 35 students are involved in forensics at Concordia, which consists of both the speech and debate teams. Two members of the debate team and ten members of the speech team competed at the national level this April.
“Concordia has a reputation of sending speech and debate representatives to nationals,” said assistant coach Todd Holm.
Nicole Richter and Dan Faltesek qualified for the American Forensic Association’s National Debate by winning the district IV qualifying tournament that covers colleges and universities of all sizes in Minnesota and neighboring states. This is the third year in a row that Concordia has won the district championship. The national debate tournament was held in Washington D.C. on April 2-6.
The duo won 5 debates and lost 3 in the preliminaries, advancing them to the finals where they lost to Dartmouth.
Members of the speech team competed the same weekend in Long Beach, Calif., placing fourteenth as a team, an increase from last year’s 25th place.
At the tournament, Tom Reed was a quarterfinalist in prose and a semi-finalist in program oral-interpretation and after-dinner speaking. Steph Jagst was a quarterfinalist in interpretation of prose and poetry and Jesse Matson was a semi-finalist in impromptu speaking.
“All in all, an exciting weekend,” said forensics director Fred Sternhagen.
The speech team participated in tournaments during mid-semester break, where some members qualified. Others qualified in the district-qualifying tournament the following weekend at Eau Claire, Wis., Holm said.
“Those who qualify for nationals are considered among the top five to ten percent in the country, so just qualifying is an honor,” Holm said.
Concordia’s forensics team is able to compete against larger schools because the school’s longtime commitment to the program, Sternhagen said. Interim President Paul Dovre was the head debate coach at one time and Concordia has a long history of quality in this area.
“We have a good program here. We are fortunate to have the administrative support that we do,” Holm said.
Other MIAC schools do not come close to competing at the same level as Concordia.
“We work harder than our competition,” Sternhagen said.
Other schools placing in the top 15 for speech were schools such as Arizona State University, University of Nebraska and Northwestern. The debate team competed against teams from Dartmouth, Harvard and the University of Iowa.
Concordia was up for the challenge, however it was difficult to compete against larger schools because our school does not have the same amount of money, resources, or coaches as larger schools do, Sternhagen said.
Success for forensics relies on the experience of the upperclassmen, but also the strength found in the freshmen class, Holm said.
"The freshmen, as well as the exceptional recruits will continue strengthening the program," he said.
Freshman, Sarah Schwartz, said the upperclassmen help the younger students by critiquing the writing, organizing and delivery of the speeches. The judges help by making suggestions to the speeches after competition.
Schwartz had little experience in forensics when she joined speech. Because of the help of coaches and teammates, she is one who advanced to the national tournament, competing in the categories of persuasive speaking and informative speaking.
Sternhagen helps the students with three elements: goal setting, long-term skills development, and direct coaching.
Sternhagen helped Richter and Faltesek forget about the last debate and focus on the next, Richter said.
"He made it a psychological tournament," she said.
Throughout the season, Sternhagen trained the team to become better speakers, Richter said. He helped them plan their research and structure the information to be persuasive and organized.
Speech tournaments involve 11 different competitive events. The average student competes in about four events, Holm said. Five to six people typically compete in a round and the judge ranks them from one to five. Five is the lowest score awarded. Even if there are six people competing, two fives are awarded. The judge totals the scores from the two or three rounds. A student automatically qualifies for nationals if he or she receives a score of eight or lower during any tournament throughout the season.
Each year there is a national topic for debate, said Sternhagen. This year it is the United States policy to Europe. Throughout the year, students debated on different categories related to this topic such as nuclear weapons, DNA regulation, and the US Farm Bill. Students are assigned to debate for or against the topics and are judged by their performances.
Both the speech and debate teams are active first and second semesters. Most students participate in one or the other because it is difficult to be involved with both.
The other six students who competed in the national speech tournament were Jessica Gourley, Will Hailer, Jeff Bakke, Nick Conti-Masanz, Mike Chouinard and Shanna Granstra.