The forensics team at the University of Nebraska at Omaha won its fourth consecutive state title Feb. 10 at the state competition hosted at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The annual Nebraska Intercollegiate Forensics Association competition was open to all Nebraska colleges and universities with forensics programs, among them Hastings College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said Cameron Logsdon, assistant director of forensics.
“What’s cool is that in terms of college speech, Nebraska is one of the best states for speech in the country,” Logsdon said. “We have four teams that are ranked in the top 20 nationally: Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings and Doane University.”
MavForensics students competed individually in various categories such as poetry, persuasive speaking and impromptu speaking, Logsdon said. The students’ points were added up to form each team’s total score.
There are 17 students in MavForensics, three of who won first place in their respective categories, Logsdon said.
He said sophomore Seth Nelson took first place in impromptu speaking. Speakers in this category were given a minute-and-a-half to prepare five-and-a-half-minute speeches.
Nelson said this was his second year on MavForensics and his first championship. He said he loves forensics because it gives him a platform to talk about things he cares about.
Alissa Duong, a senior, took first place in the program of oral interpretation. In this event, speakers are given 10 minutes to put together arguments, supporting them with different kinds of literature including poetry, prose, news articles and research.
Abbie Perry, a junior, won the interstate oratory competition. Perry and the second-place speaker will go on to compete in the national interstate oratory competition in April.
Perry said this is the third time she has qualified for the national competition.
“Forensics is an activity where just putting in the work and time gets you the payoff in the long run,” Perry said.
Perry said she looks up to MavForensics’ alumni. Among them are Traelon Graham and Karlee Currin, former students who now coach the team.
MavForensics students prepare all year for the championship, starting in the summer, Logsdon said. They begin to write their speeches, competing with them in various competitions and perfecting them.
“So in the summer, we start looking for speech topics for them, and we just ask the students what they care about,” Logsdon said. “What social issues do you want to write about right now? What research are you interested in?”
Logsdon said the coaches help students write and edit their speeches, as well as improve their performances.
“We want our goal to be for students to find their voices and to speak to their own unique style,” Logsdon said.
Abbie Syrek, director of MavForensics, said, “Honestly, MavForensics could be a sitcom on NBC every Thursday night, and it could also be an HBO drama series.”
“I feel like our lives are like a TV show because you deal with constant craziness,” she said. “And you also deal with the drama of hardship and challenge and triumph.”
Syrek said she became the director of forensics in 2006 after earning her master’s degree at Kansas State University. She also participated in MavForensics as an undergraduate at UNO.
“We’re really lucky to be at UNO because UNO values forensics,” Syrek said. “We believe that every institution should because it’s skills training in public speaking, leadership, conflict management, critical thinking and research.”
Logsdon said forensics is a lot like sports.
“It’s academic in nature; it’s creative in nature, but at the end of the day, it’s a competitive activity,” Logsdon said. “It’s kind of the best of all worlds, which is why we love it so much.”