BU Forensics Team Wins Big

Dylan Smith, Staff Writer

The Bloomsburg Forensic Speech and Debate Team scored a big win over the weekend of September 30th and October 1st. The BU Forensics Team won the First Place Sweepstakes Trophy at the CFA Fall Tournament held at Bloomsburg University. This marks the 6th consecutive tournament where BU has won the first-place team award dating back to last year.  Bloomsburg University finished ahead of Shepherd University, Grove City College, Lenoir-Rhyne University, and the University of Lynchburg. Bloomsburg students won several first-place awards, including the First Place out of 20 parliamentary debate teams.

Dr. Harry “Neil” Strine, a professor of Political Science who is most famous for teaching former football quarterback Drew Brees, has been the advisor of the Forensic Team for many years now. When asked what Dr. Strine belived contributed to the team’s success he said it was ultimately due to the effort the team put into their debates. “While it may sound cliche, the students on the team put in a lot of practice and respond to feedback generated at our team meetings.  Every student on the team practices their speech/piece before the whole team during our team meeting sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights.  This allows students who are a part of the audience at our practices to provide feedback.  Students receive oral feedback from me, but they also receive feedback from their peers, especially the junior and senior members of the team.  We are fortunate to have returning students on the team who know what judges look for, so they share this information with the newer members.  At the end of the day our success is due to the hard work and practice put in by the students.”

Erik Weibel, who won first place in Prose and Poetry and sixth in Pentathlon, believes the spirit, passion, and sense of community of the team has contributed to the team’s success. “I believe there were several factors contributing to the team’s success at the tournament. The biggest has to be the spirit of the team. We’re competitive, but we prioritize self-improvement. It’s okay if you don’t win prizes – we just want to be better than the week before. That focus takes an edge off the stress and lets us be our best. Another factor is that the team has a lot of passionate members who put their all into the team. They embrace the challenge. The final factor I’ll mention has to be our sense of community. It’s incredible. Most of my closest college friends are on the team. It’s like a family.”

There are three main categories that student debaters can compete in: regular debates, limited preparation events, and interpretation of literature, (Poetry, Pose, Dramatic Duo, etc.). The student debaters are graded after every speech/debate they give by a judge or panel of judges. After the students finish their debates, they receive a completed ballot from a judge for each round of competition per event at the end of the tournament. These ballots contain criticisms, highlights of their given speeches, and areas where improvements can be made.
The BU Forensic Team is unique and stands apart from other teams. Weibel believes this is because of the size and skill of the team. “Our skill matters because we need to perform well at a tournament. Our size matters because we are one of the larger teams. This means more people doing more events each tournament – that means more chances to get more prizes. A lot of schools have really good teams, but they might be lacking in one or the other. They might have a large size, or a lot of skill but not many teammates. Bloomsburg has enough of both to give us a solid competitive edge.”

Being part of the Forensic Team, one learns the invaluable skills of public speaking, critical thinking, and how to intelligently formulate and express augments. The Forensic Team is always a lot of fun and way to meet like-minded people. Dr. Strine says, “While our team has been very successful in terms of winning awards, the most important part of the speech and debate team for me is that students learn to be better communicators. My philosophy has always been that this is an educational activity and that students should always try to improve upon their performance at their last tournament. It is great to win speech and debate awards, but students should use the opportunity to become better communicators, learn something new, network with students from other schools, and to have fun.”  Weibel says that the Forensic Team has made him into the person he is today. Some of Weibel’s favorite memories are with the team.

The following list is of the students who won awards at the CFA tournament:

Nick Sorkine: 1st Communication Analysis, 1st Parliamentary Debate with Jondi Harley;

1st Pentathlon 2nd Extemporaneous Speaking, 2nd Persuasive Speaking, 3rd

Declamation, 3rd Informative, 3rd Lincoln-Douglas Debate,  3rd (Tie) Best Speaker Parliamentary Debate.
Carson Rush: 5th Extemporaneous Speaking, 6th Declamation.
Erik Weibel: 1st Prose, 1st Poetry, 6th Pentathlon.
Luis Donayre: 1st Declamation, 3rd Pentathlon, 4th Communication Analysis, 5th Persuasive Speaking, 5th Lincoln-Douglas Debate, 6th Extemporaneous Speaking.
Jondi Harley: 1st Parliamentary Debate with Nick Sorkine, 1st Persuasive Speaking, 3rd (Tie) Best Speaker Parliamentary Debate, 4th Extemporaneous Speaking.
Mason Kay: 1st Lincoln-Douglas Debate, 3rd After-Dinner Speaking.
Dylan Smith: 2nd Communication Analysis, 4th Impromptu Speaking.
Zachariah Shultz: 1st Impromptu Speaking, 4th Single Dramatic Interpretation.
Alex Rohland: 4th Persuasive Speaking, 5th Declamation.
Jared Garrison: 2nd Informative Speaking.