By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter
When Vanessa Hatfield-Reeker, assistant director of UNO’s Forensics team, isn’t in class or making lesson plans, she’s working on forensics.
All of the hard work by Hatfield-Reeker, Director Abbie Syrek and the team of 11 students has paid off.
Most college tournaments span two days of competition, and have awards each day and overall. The past two weekends, UNO’s team has swept not only both days at each competition, but also the overall awards.
The first tournament of the year was at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas at the end of September. Cole Evans swept both days as an individual, and was the top individual competitor overall. Trae Graham, Lauren Ackerman and Queeny Pimentel also showed up as top individual performers. Overall, the small team swept the team sweepstakes.
Last weekend the Mavericks competed at Bethel Community College, also in Kansas.
Evans and Graham tied for top individual performance. The team won five out of 11 events, Syrek said.
The team may be small, but it comes down to hard work, not numbers, Syrek said. The team has official meetings on Wednesday, but Syrek and Hatfield-Reeker said the Mavericks practiced all week long, even organizing sessions among themselves.
The team has been ranked fifth nationally for the past two years and have been ranked in the top 15 for five years, Syrek said.
“We don’t take it for granted,” Hatfield-Reeker said.
Since UNO’s program is small compared to many other schools, the team goes in without any expectations other than hard work and practice, Hatfield-Reeker said.
“A lot of them stick to topics they’re passionate about, or personal interests, or something that has affected someone they’re close to,” Hatfield-Reeker said.
Doing so, means they want to compete and don’t mind practicing. They were lucky to have such a strong showing from freshmen and sophomore competitors, Hatfield-Reeker said.
Practice isn’t the only tool for success.
“Having an office area means that they can come hang out together in between classes,” Hatfield-Reeker said. “These guys are always helping each other out.”
From upperclassmen helping freshman, to meeting at teammates’ houses for impromptu practices, Syrek and Hatfield-Reeker said the team is very unified. Hatfield-Reeker even caught herself referring to the team as “my kids,” a testament to just how close the team feels. So far, all 11 students travelled together to both tournaments, having a chance to bond and support each other’s wins.
Beyond the strong team, and the great practice hours they put in, there seems to be another factor influencing success for UNO forensics. Last year, Syrek directed the team with one graduate teaching assistant, and her husband as a full time volunteer. This year, Hatfield-Reeker started as assistant director, the team picked up two graduate assistants, and Syrek’s husband still volunteers. The near doubling of the coaching staff means there are more hours available for practice, as well as greater individual attention.
Forensics is off to strong start this season. Like any athletic program, the team practices hard, works together and competes hard to win. They’ve already taken the state of Kansas by storm. Next week, the team will split between Creighton and Minnesota State, before hosting a tournament at UNO Oct. 27 and 28.