Forensics team performs virtually in tournament season

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, the UWEC forensics students find ways to participate

More stories from Amira Lunderville



The team made the most out of the virtual transition while also juggling the new rules established because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, UW-Eau Claire’s forensics team was one of many groups who adapted to the new “normal” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This past weekend they were able to participate in one of several tournaments, completely online. 

Nine students participated in the tournament starting with preliminary rounds on Nov. 3, Chris Outzen, the director of forensics, said. Final rounds went through Sunday, Nov. 8 over platforms like Zoom.

“The tournament entails the performance of speeches in a range of different categories. There are 11 (sub)categories that fall into three large categories,” Outzen said. 

The three categories are limited preparation events, public address events and oral interpretation events, Outzen said. These events range from impromptu speaking to dramatic interpretation. 

Outzen said forensics isn’t exactly one thing and it is always changing.

“Today, communication scholars, departments and national organizations use ‘forensics’ as a term to encompass the range of speech and debate activities used to teach communication and professional skills through a competitive framework in middle school, high school and college institutions,” Outzen said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the forensics team would travel to various schools in the region, Outzen said. However, now the students are recording their videos, streaming live from Hibbard Humanities Hall or from wherever they can properly record. 

COVID-19 has changed forensics drastically, Dana Athmann, a fourth-year broadfield social studies education student and team president of forensics, said. Since they can’t go to tournaments, they miss out on meeting new people and making friends like members did in previous years. 

“I love to meet people at different tournaments,” Athmann said. “We usually compete against the same schools, so we get really close with certain schools. That’s been deeply missed since COVID-19.” 

The content and stories are the same, but the medium in which they perform is completely different, Athmann said. Since they are recording alone or streaming in alone, they don’t have the opportunity to really perform in front of an audience. 

It doesn’t necessarily mean students aren’t still advocating through their speaking skills, Brock Erdman, a second-year psychology student and vice president of forensics, said. 

“It’s great to have the opportunity to be able to take a message you want to send out to the world and really try to impact people’s lives with your speech,” Erdman said. 

The pandemic was also amidst another huge change in the forensics team, Meghan Neu, a fourth-year English education student and administrative assistant for forensics, said. The team’s coach of 23 years stepped down and Chris Outzen took over. 

It was a new and exciting time, Neu said. The whole team made the most out of the switch while also juggling the new rules established because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students from the team took home a few awards, Outzen said. 

  • Quarterfinalist in Prose Interpretation: Meghan Neu
  • Quarterfinalist in Prose Interpretation: Meghan Roeser 
  • Semifinalist in Dramatic Interpretation: Meghan Neu 
  • Semifinalist in Impromptu Speaking: Brock Erdman 
  • Semifinalist in Informative speaking: Dana Athmann 
  • Second place in Prose Interpretation: Dana Athmann 
  • Champion in Novice Informative Speaking: Megan Schmitz 

“The students have risen to the occasion and continue to be dedicated members of our team and campus community, despite having to adapt to the restrictions the pandemic has placed upon us,” Outzen said. “I’m very proud of the strength and maturity with which they have handled the adversity and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year holds for us.”

The forensics team has competed in six tournaments and has three more left this year. To learn more about forensics, check out their page here.

Lunderville can be reached at [email protected]