UW-Eau Claire forensics team looks forward to national competitions

At the Evening of Champions, participants perform their award-winning pieces for family and friends


Photo by Deanna Kolell

Sydney Tupy performs her dramatic interpretation piece about a woman struggling with drug addiction and domestic abuse.

Celebrating its 100th year of existence, the UW-Eau Claire forensics team is setting the bar higher as members prepare for the upcoming national competitions.

At 6 p.m. on Monday night, members of the forensics team gathered in Centennial Hall for their Evening of Champions, where they displayed their award-winning performances one last time before the national competitions began. The performances covered a variety of topics, from child marriages to an analysis of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Emcees Emily Shepardson and Jacob Nieman, who also participate in forensics, said their team has a long history of success. The Eau Claire team has placed in the top two at the Wisconsin State Championship for the past 33 years, and since 2000, they have had more than 50 state champions.

Karen Morris, the forensics coach for 20 years, said her young team is prepared for the national competitions. However, after graduating a large senior class, the forensics team was left “bottom-heavy.”

“It’s time to rebuild,” Morris said. “I think it was a little slow getting started, but we’re so excited about the future because we’ve got so many talented freshmen.”

The freshmen on the team have demonstrated their talent, Morris said, as three qualified for the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA).

The AFA is more challenging to enter than the other national tournament, the National Forensic Association (NFA), Morris said, because of the more rigid qualifications to make it.

Sydney Tupy, president of the forensics team, agreed their team was prepared for national competition. Having been to NFA three times and AFA once, Tupy said competing at a national level is an unparallelled experience.

“Getting to that moment is my favorite part of the season because it is the ‘make it or break it’ moment,” Tupy said. “But regardless, your team and everyone there is supporting you and cheering you on.”

Tupy, a junior integrated strategic communication student, said the sophomores stepped up to act like upperclassmen and support their newest members. The team operates like a family, Tupy said, while also encouraging each other to perform at a higher level each time.

Mitchell Krisnik, a sophomore integrated strategic communication student, said he will be performing at both AFA and NFA. For the Evening of Champions, Krisnik performed his informative speaking piece on the threshold theory, using illustrations like Wilt Chamberlain’s free throw style and dabbing.

College forensics was like “a brick to the face” compared to high school forensics, Krisnik said, as participants take on many more events. At this level, participants also cannot fake anything.

“You need to know every single word you have written, and you need to connect to every single word you say,” Krisnik said. “If people don’t think you’re interested in what you’re talking about, they won’t be interested either.”

Tupy also performed two of her events at the Evening of Champions. The first was a duo interpretation with first-year student Lauren Brooks about the stereotypes surrounding people with autism. For duo interpretation, the performers are not able to touch or look at each other.

Later, Tupy performed in dramatic interpretation, which she said was her favorite event because she could fully develop her characters. In her piece, Tupy adopts the persona of a woman who is addicted to drugs and abused by her husband.

“Figuring out how a character thinks and moves can only be described as an out of body experience because I get to be someone else for ten minutes,” Tupy said. “I truly fall in love with the meaning of their story and I relate it back to my own experiences.”

Forensics and the public speaking skills she has developed give her confidence, Tupy said, and it was an experience that gave her a new perspective.

“Public speaking seems like this big, scary idea dressed up like Bigfoot,” Tupy said. “But the people who step forward have an advantage because they get to cultivate an experience their audience will take part in … I don’t believe I would be where I am today without it.”

The Eau Claire forensics team will wrap up their season with the national tournaments. Nine students performing 26 events will leave Thursday for the AFA at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

Later, 13 members of the team will compete in 42 events at the NFA April 13-17, which will be hosted on the Eau Claire campus.