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MavForensics

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Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

University of Nebraska at Omaha’s competitive speech team, MavForensics, earned their spot in the country’s top 10 forensics programs for the seventh consecutive year.

Following the team’s success at the American Forensics Association’s National Individual Events Tournament, they earned the rank of sixth best team in the country—a feat made more impressive given the smaller size of UNO’s team compared to other top 10 schools. With many top 10 teams bringing around 20 to 30 members, MavForensics secured their rank with 13 students.

“To take such a young team and be ranked sixth in the nation is insanity,” said Abbie Syrek, the director of MavForensics and a professor at UNO.

Syrek has been the director of MavForensics since fall of 2006.

“MavForensics, nationally, has become really well known for being a small but particularly mighty school for speech,” said Cameron Logsdon, the assistant director of MavForensics. “We’re getting recruits on our team who came specifically to UNO from Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and California.”

Logsdon compared the scoring system of speech tournaments to that of a track tournament. While students are competing in their individual events, they are contributing points to the overall team’s score.

The journey to the top 10 is a taxing, time consuming process. Students on the team spend many hours each week, starting in July, preparing speeches and eventually traveling to tournaments later in the season. Tournament weekends typically involve team members leaving Friday afternoon and returning late on Sunday night after a full weekend of competing.

“It’s a rare opportunity that someone my age or someone at my level in education is able to travel the country for an entire school year,” said Sarah Maul, a sophomore in MavForensics. “We meet people from all around the country and build relationships.”

Maul was one of the 13 students who competed in the American Forensics Association’s National Individual Events Tournament.

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Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu
Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Trent Ostrom
CONTRIBUTOR

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s MavForensics competitive speech team was named the best team in the state for the second year in a row.

Four of the top 25 forensics teams in the country are located in the state of Nebraska. Abbie Syrek is the head coach of MavForensics. She said the culture of the team leads to winning tournaments.

“We are a smaller team but with that comes a tight-knit community that cares about each other,” Syrek said. “We have a disadvantage when it comes to the size of our team, but our spirit to compete and our care for each other really makes the difference.”

The main challenge the MavForensics team faces is: while many schools boast up to 30 competitors at a tournament, they have 15. In order to win, each member of the team must compete at a high level. Catie Zaleski is a senior studying international studies. She said each member of the team is driven to compete.

“We formally practice together once a week, and the rest of the week it’s on you to practice,” Zaleski said. “We have coaches, graduate teaching assistants and fellow teammates that are willing to take the time to help you improve and be the best you can be.”

According to the team, the average schedule for a MavForensics student includes working Monday through Thursday and competing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Many of our students work full-time, and go to school and compete,” Syrek said. “If a student becomes overwhelmed, I make sure to sit down with them, schedule out the week and what can possibly be cut to make the students life easier.”

For 2015-2016, MavForensics anticipated a transition year as many students graduated and a lot of new faces were on the team. Because of the culture of passion for competing and care for each other, each freshman and sophomore are competing on the national level.

While practice makes perfect, Syrek admits that the community within the team leads to success.

“All of our team are friends and they genuinely care about each other,” Syrek said. “They mentor each other and often times when I see a student’s personal growth, their performance confidence also grows.”

When Zaleski was a freshman, she was mentored by teammates to become the competitor she is today.

“High school was a lot different from college forensics because, in college, you are truly going up against professionals,” Zaleski said. “Luckily my high school coach was MavForensics alumni and prepared me for what lied ahead. As a freshman, the seniors on the team helped me adjust to competing at the college level.”

The team has three regular season tournaments to go be-fore going to nationals. The team will compete at the 2016 AFA-NIET, which takes place from April 2-4 in Gainesville, Florida.

Once the season is done, they will be hosting The Interstate Oratorical Association, college forensics oldest oratorical tournament.

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Photo Courtesy of Abbie Syrek
Photo Courtesy of Abbie Syrek

Kelsey Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s speech team, MavForensics, is a small group comprised of 15 students this year. Of those 15, eight are freshman.

“Our ‘fab freshman’ are doing an amazing job,” said Abbie Syrek, director of MavForensics. “They have all qualified several speaking events for nationals and represent UNO every weekend by winning regional speaking awards.”

MavForensics most recently finished second at an elite national-level tournament in Austin, Texas called Hell Froze Over.

For the second consecutive year, MavForensics had an award winning showing at the prestigious tournament. The tournament is arguably the most difficult regular season competition of the year. The team managed its highest finish ever, taking second place on Saturday, Sunday and over-all for the weekend.

The team was led by senior Catie Zaleski. She tied for top overall speaker in Saturday’s competition, and was the champion of Poetry Interpretation.

Freshman Abby Hoffman placed fifth overall speaker on Saturday, and was the champion in Prose Interpretation for both Saturday and Sunday’s competition. Junior Abbie Herbert made finals in both Dramatic Interpretation and Prose Interpretation over the weekend, while Freshman Ameres Groves joined Hoffman in Duo Interpretation finals.

“Joining the Forensics team has been a dream-like experience for me,” Groves said. “I never imagined being surrounded by so many motivated and talented people. I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this team.”
In the same weekend, a hand-ful of students made the trip to Seward, Nebraska for the Sleet and Snow invitational. At this competition, freshman Abbie Perry took first place in communication analysis, sophomore Dylan Morris took first place in Informative Speaking and freshman Emilee Sloan took first place in Persuasive Speaking.

On Feb. 13, the team heads to state competition, hosted at Doane College. With several of the top 20 programs in the country residing in Nebraska-Hastings College, Doane College and UNL- the state competition will be one of the most challenging of the year.

The last weekend in February, the team will co-host a competition with University of Nebraska– Lincoln called The Battle for the Capitol. Teams from across the Midwest will attend this competition as one of the last regular-season invitational tournaments of year.

As the last competition of the year, the forensics team will attend the American Forensics Association-National Individual Events Tournament on March 31 in Gainesville, Florida. All 15 students have
already qualified for 45 different speaking events with the possibility to qualify for more before the season is over.

All around, it has been a sea-son to remember for MavForensics, who look to carry this momentum into the home stretch of the season. With the State Championship determined in February and the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament held in late March.

“This journey has sharpened my abilities for my voice to be heard in this world,” Groves said.
He and the other seven freshmen have a lot to look forward to in the remainder of this season, as well as in the next three years.

This young, talented bunch has seen a lot of success so far this season, and with three large competitions left ahead there is sure to be more success on the horizon.

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