Most people are scared to death of giving speeches in public. However, the University of Nebraska at Omaha MavForensics team has made a hobby out of the dreaded activity.
Collegiate forensics consists of participants choosing to compete in one or more of eleven events. Competitions include persuasion, extemporaneous, impromptu speaking, rhetorical criticism, prose, dramatic duo, after dinner, dramatic interpretation, poetry, informative speaking and program of oral interpretation.
Since the MavForensics team is relatively small, many of the team members participate in multiple events, some even taking on six.
“Our team is so small compared to other teams that it gives us an incredible advantage whenever we compete and are together, which is the fact that we do it for each other,” said Traelon Graham, a senior team member.
The speech season begins in the summer when participants start searching for scripts and speech topics and ends after nationals in April. Throughout the season, the team competes at around 20 different tournaments. The tournaments usually consist of an average of ten schools, with a minimum of ten people on each team.
MavForensics also has many practices, including a formal one every Wednesday, where they practice for 4-5 hours. The team practices even more on their own, dedicating a few hours almost every night.
“During the weeks before a big tournament we’ll just go insane,” said team president Cole Evans. “It’s not uncommon for us to start practicing at 5 or 6 in the evening and not get done until 1 or 2 in the morning—all week.”
Preparing speeches for forensics can take a lot of time and energy.
“At the beginning of the season, it takes a lot more preparation because a person might have a total of 60 minutes of material they are trying to memorize and polish for the first tournaments,” Evans said.
“As the year goes on, we take time to really iron out and add polish and nuance to our pieces. It consumes my life in the best way possible,” said team member Karlee Currin.
Although MavForensics is time consuming, the members had a variety of reasons for joining. Currin was recruited onto the team by some of the other team members.
“I was never planning on doing forensics in college, but now I can’t imagine my life without it,” Currin said. “I didn’t realize when I auditioned three years ago and was offered a spot that it would change my life in such a profound way.”
Some even got their forensics start before UNO, like Evans who began forensics as a sophomore in high school.
“I had seen my brother doing it and thought it was really, really cool so, I thought I’d give it a try,” said Evans. “The reason that it appealed so much to me at the beginning was the competitive aspect of it alongside the art of performance. I thought it was the most unique blend of the team things that I loved making art and being competitive.”
Graham was also introduced to forensics in high school by Cameron Logsdon, who is now Graham’s mentor.
“While in high school, all I did was lift weights and skateboard, and I knew that those two things would serve me no purpose in the future,” Graham said. “The one thing I loved other than those things was acting, and before I knew it I joined the Bellevue East team, which then led me to the UNO Mavericks, and I don’t know what I would’ve done in life without this team.”
Forensics is not an easy activity. In fact, there are a variety of difficulties that come with being involved. Balancing forensics with other activities can also be hard.
“The hardest part about being on this team is that I want to devote all my time and energy into it, but since I have other things outside of the team, I can’t. If I could get paid for doing forensics, I would never leave the Arts and Sciences building. I would wake up at 7 a.m. every day and leave at 10 p.m.” Graham said. “Unfortunately, I have to go to work and do homework, so I can’t be here all hours of the day. In short, the hardest part is that I want to give everything I have to this team and activity, but I can’t because other things in my life need my attention as well.”
Being on the forensics team is a lot of hard work. However, it is also very rewarding. Many of the team members think that the most rewarding part is that the MavForensics team becomes like a second family.
“My favorite part about being on the UNO forensics team is that they’re my family. I couldn’t imagine my life without these people, and I never plan on leaving them in any way, shape or form,” Evans said. “They are the most talented, hard-working, amazing people ever.”
“We don’t compete and practice so hard because we want trophies to prove it to each other, we do it so that we can be together and support each other whatever the outcome,” Graham said. “I would die for each and every one of my teammates, and I love them all more than any words could portray. We all come from very interesting places, and I think that this team has built an amazing place for us all to call home, whenever we need to.”
Currin’s favorite part of the team is also the familial aspect.
“This team is my family. I have a network of 13 people who constantly lift me up, push me to be better and remind me that I am a valued member of this organization,” Currin said. “Our team is so selfless, passionate and talented and they inspire me every single day.”
The MavForensics team did extremely well at this year’s NIFA State Tournament, which was hosted at UNO, and placed second as a team.
At the state tournament, all ten team members made it to the finals round. Cole Evans earned sixth place in Dramatic Interpretation, second place in Program of Oral Interpretation and third in Prose Interpretation. Evans also won state championship with his partner Traelon Graham in Duo Interpretation. This was the third consecutive state championship for Traelon and Cole as a duo, and UNO’s fourth consecutive one. Graham also received sixth place in Prose Interpretation, third place in Program of Oral Interpretation, and was state champion in Poetry Interpretation, Individual Sweepstakes and Informative Speaking. Natalie Schneider-Brooks placed sixth in After Dinner Speaking and sixth in Extemporaneous Speaking. QueenTara Pimental earned fourth place in After Dinner Speaking, third in Informative Speaking, fourth in Program of Oral Interpretation, second in Prose Interpretation and fourth in Duo Interpretation with her partner Karlee Currin. Currin also earned second place in After Dinner Speaking, second in Dramatic Interpretation, third in Individual Sweepstakes and was state champion in Prose Interpretation. Dan Cutter earned third place in Communication Analysis, fourth place in Impromptu Speaking and sixth place in Poetry Interpretation. Abbie Herbert earned fifth place in Dramatic Interpretation. Julia Quigley was named Top Novice in Informative Speaking and earned fifth place in Duo Interpretation with her partner Catie Zaleski, who earned fourth in Poetry Interpretation and fifth in Prose Interpretation. Abbie Herbert placed fifth in Dramatic Interpretation. Doug Morris placed fifth in Extemporaneous Speaking and was named Top Novice and third place in Interstate Oratory.
The team will now be preparing for the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament. All of the forensics students have qualified and will be competing in Arizona this April. At nationals, around 1,000 participants from 100 to 200 schools nationwide compete.
MavForensics could not be as successful as they are without their coaches.
“Almost [all] I have gained, learned and accomplished in the past four years is all thanks to Abbie Syrek, Ryan Syrek and Cameron Logsdon,” Graham said. “Without them, I more than likely wouldn’t have succeeded in school, gained amazing opportunities and wouldn’t have had a set career path for my future.”
Anyone who is interested in trying out for MavForensics can contact Abbie Syrek, the director of forensics. Auditions for the team are held in the summer. MavForensics will also be hosting a Night Before Nationals showcase towards the end of March.