The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Forensics team prepares for National tournament in April

When a Blugold athletics team sends members to a national-level competition, people take notice. But when the UW-Eau Claire Forensics Team sends competitors to national tournaments, it’s almost expected.

Coach Kelly Jo Wright said last year, the program sent 16 students to the National Forensics Association tournament and six students to the American Forensics Association tournament, which has tougher standards. This year, individual performances in events, such as the most recent Iowa Swing Tournament, Jan. 19 to 20, and the Mid-American Forensics League no. 5 and no. 6, Jan. 26 to 27, are qualifying students for nationals left and right.

“We demand a lot from our forensics students,” Wright said, adding Eau Claire requires students to qualify in three events to go to a national tournament, instead of just one, since the coaches want to make the money used on expensive tournaments worth the cost.

Junior Justin Rudnick is one such student. At the January tournaments, he qualified for both the NFA and the AFA for his speeches in persuasion and informative speaking, respectively.

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Rudnick said he attributes the team’s consistent success to its members’ drive, passion and great coaches. He said since many on Eau Claire’s team are from small towns, they are more stubborn and passionate about their messages.

“We genuinely put our hearts and souls into the things we talk about,” he said.

Rudnick said he competes in eight separate events, which is more events than a member usually does.

Eau Claire’s team requires its students to prepare at least three events a season – to maximize tournament funds and give the individual a better chance at qualifying for more national tournament spots – Wright said. This means each student must research, write and prepare at least three pieces worthy of competition each year.

Besides individual qualifiers, forensics also takes an overall team score at tournaments. Eau Claire took second and fourth at the two Iowa tournaments, fifth at MAFL #5 and third at MAFL #6.

Freshman Meghan Pickard, another member of the forensics team, also performed well individually in January’s tournaments. She placed second in persuasion and qualified for NFA and placed third in impromptu speaking and qualified for AFA.

“It’s been a good experience,” Pickard said. “I’ve definitely learned a lot more about forensics this year.”

Pickard said she joined forensics partly because of her brother, sophomore BJ Pickard, who is also on the Eau Claire team.

Wright said she is excited about the rebuilding phase of the team, since Eau Claire only has three upperclassmen this year.

“We’ve really got a talented, amazing and very hard-working group of freshmen and sophomores,” she said.

For example, at the St. Cloud meet Saturday and Sunday, Eau Claire only sent its freshmen competitors. Wright said the students held their own against the other competitors, earning a seventh place trophy.

“It was exciting to see the group of freshmen do so well,” she said.

Besides the national tournaments in April, Eau Claire forensics has a busy spring. Over the weekend, Eau Claire hosted 17 other schools in the 66th annual Grace Walsh Tournament.

But Wright said the long, busy forensics season is worth it for the rewards she and the students’ gain.

“I love seeing the students grow into these confident, accomplished young men and women,” she said. “It’s a privilege to see and be part of that transformation.”

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Forensics team prepares for National tournament in April