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

UWEC forensics brings nationals home

The university forensics team will be hosting the AFA national tournament this weekend
Photo by Godwin Agbara
Awards from previous years speech seasons.

The American Forensics Association (or AFA) hosts a national speech tournament every year, where students who have competed all year can qualify and compete. This year, the tournament will be held on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

The AFA is one of the two national forensics organizations, supporting the opportunities provided by intercollegiate speech and debate programs across campuses in the U.S. 

The tournament hosts 600 students and coaches from 57 collegiate speech programs across the country. This year, 10 UW-Eau Claire students will be competing in the tournament, with a total of 32 speeches being entered.

According to Chris Outzen, UW-Eau Claire’s director of forensics, this will be the university’s third time hosting the AFA National Tournament since its team’s conception 43 years ago. 

Outzen said in order to qualify, students have to compete in intercollegiate tournaments across the academic year. Starting from the end of September to the second week of March.

Students must reach the final rounds at least twice through the season. Their rankings in those final rounds must add up to five or less to qualify for the tournament (i.e. you earn a two at one tournament then a three at the next, you have five and can now qualify for the national tournament).

“One of the things that we like about being able to travel to another campus for this tournament is that it takes the students out of their everyday life,” Outzen said. “When it’s on our own campus it’s hard to walk past your old classroom and not remember, ‘oh, homework.’”

Outzen talked about how the team takes steps to further get into a competitive mindset when faced with the challenge of hosting the tournament at home. Things like doing homework early help with staying focused for the tournament this weekend. 

“Myself and our assistant director, Kelly Jo Wright, have additional duties. That does mean that our students have to rely on peer coaching,” Outzen said. “They have to work more with each other.”

UW-Eau Claire’s forensics team has 10 students competing in this upcoming AFA national tournament. One of which is Annika Emerson, the team’s current president. This will be Emerson’s fourth and final AFA tournament, as they will be graduating this May.

“There’s a level of polish that’s expected with all of the events,” Emerson said. “Every competition level that we’ve seen throughout the year, it’s like that times 10. Everyone is on their game, it’s really cool to see and be involved in.”

But even with the sense of competition and professionalism being higher, the comradery and friendships built between competitors across the nation is still high among the students competing.

“I think there’s a higher sense of camaraderie and friendship between teams across the nation instead of just within your own team,” Emerson said, “I’ve made some of my closest friendships with people who go to school across the country, which isn’t something I got the chance to do in high school speech.”

“We’re very excited to host,” Outzen said. “This is the third time we’re hosting AFA, which makes us only one of two schools who has ever hosted that much. And I’m the third consecutive director to host. This is something we have a long history of doing, so we’re very excited AFA is returning to us again.”

The AFA National Tournament will be hosted this weekend, Friday, April 5 through Monday, April 8. Rounds will occupy Hibbard Humanities Hall, Centennial Hall, with some final rounds happening in Haas Fine Arts Center and Davies Student Center on Monday.

Good luck to all the students competing this weekend.

Agbara can be reached at [email protected].

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