Northwestern's Speech Team faces down big competitors to take national rankings

June 01, 2010

The team at the American Forensics Association tournament: (back) Jack Chen, Stan Polit, Tim Zachas, Ahsin Azim, and (front) Dillon White, Joshua Hiew, Jourdin Batchelor, Shira DeCovnick, and Priyanka Gupta.

The team at the American Forensics Association tournament: (back) Jack Chen, Stan Polit, Tim Zachas, Ahsin Azim, and (front) Dillon White, Joshua Hiew, Jourdin Batchelor, Shira DeCovnick, and Priyanka Gupta.

The Northwestern Speech Team delivered an outstanding year, winning the Division 1 National Championship title among other high national rankings at three major national tournaments: the Pi Kappa Delta Nationals, the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament and the National Forensics Association National Tournament. The Speech Team is the partner team to the Debate Society in the forensics program.

"Over the course of the three major national tournaments, we had three national champions in individual events," said Ryan Lauth, director of individual events in the School of Communication and the speech division director of the National High School Institute. "We won a national title in three different events: Dramatic Interpretation, Informative Speaking and Persuasive Speaking. Many thought we should also have won Prose Interpretation but we had to settle for second. This is the first year that Northwestern has won more than one event in a single year."

The American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament held April 2-5 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the National Forensics Association National Tournament held April 15-19 at Ohio University both host the top speech teams in the country. The AFA-NIET tournament holds 11 different events: Impromptu Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Informative Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, After Dinner Speaking, Communication Analysis, Prose Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Program Oral Interpretation and Duo Interpretation. The NFA National Tournament has 10 events, every event held at the AFA-NIET except for Program Oral Interpretation.

Competitors in each event break into a handful of rooms and compete against others in the room. The competition continues for two to four rounds as students are weeded out of the competition. The top 24 scores enter the quarter-finals, the top half of each of those rounds make it to two semi-final rounds of six competitors, and the top three from each of those rounds go to the final round. These are the top six competitors in the nation. Some events start with as many as 230 competitors.

The team celebrates after the National Forensics Association tournament: (back) adjuct coach JD VanSlyke, Ahsin Azim, Jourdin Batchelor, Shira DeCovnick, Erica McLin, Priyanka Gupta, coach Ryan Lauth and (front) Stan Polit, Dillon White, Tim Zachas, William Krause, Joshua Hiew, and Ethen Merel.

The team celebrates after the National Forensics Association tournament: (back) adjuct coach JD VanSlyke, Ahsin Azim, Jourdin Batchelor, Shira DeCovnick, Erica McLin, Priyanka Gupta, coach Ryan Lauth and (front) Stan Polit, Dillon White, Tim Zachas, William Krause, Joshua Hiew, and Ethen Merel.

Teams qualify for the national tournaments by competing in regional tournaments held throughout the country in the fall and winter. Approximately 500 American universities support active speech teams, some of which do not qualify for the national tournaments.

Some universities support very large speech teams and this is very beneficial at the national tournaments, often resulting in higher rankings due to overall numbers.

Northwestern has a smaller but extremely mighty team.

Speech Team students who competed in the national tournaments were seniors Stan Polit, Dillon White and William Krause; junior Shira DeCovnick (radio/television/film major); sophomores Priyanka Gupta and Jack Chen; and freshmen Tim Zachas, Jourdin Batchelor, Ahsin Azim, Joshua Hiew (communication studies major), Ethen Merel, and Erica McLin.

"The quality of the speeches that our team is able to create is relatively unparalleled and often makes up for the smaller number of students," Lauth said. "Every member of the team has to work even harder than those on other teams to make up for our small team size, but they learn even more in the process. They really are outstanding students of performance and public speaking."

Lauth said the excellent showing from this year's team bodes well for next year.

"Our experienced team members did very well once again [this year] and were backed up by a fantastic group of new students," he said. "Next year looks to be even better, and I can't wait to get started. Northwestern University is now well regarded as one of the absolute best teams in the nation year in and year out. This team really deserves to be congratulated."

Members of the speech team relax after the NFA competition. The team has become a powerful and tightly knit group.

Members of the speech team relax after the NFA competition. The team has become a powerful and tightly knit group.

The team's placings for the year:

Results from AFA-NIET: (American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament)

  • National Champion in Persuasive Speaking - Dillon White (Senior)
  • 6th place in the nation in After Dinner Speaking - Dillon White
  • 6th place in the nation in Program Oral Interpretation - Dillon White
  • National Semi-Finalist (Top 12) in Program Oral Interpretation - Stan Polit (Senior)
  • National Semi-Finalist in Impromptu Speaking - Stan Polit
  • National Semi-Finalist in Impromptu Speaking - Joshua Hiew (Freshman)
  • National Quarter-Finalist (Top 24) in Prose Interpretation - Dillon White

Results from NFA: (National Forensics Association National Tournament)

  • National Champions in Presidents Division 1 Team Sweepstakes (2nd year in a row)
  • 7th Place Overall in the Team Open Division
  • National Champion in Informative Speaking - Dillon White
  • 2nd in the nation in Prose Interpretation - Stan Polit
  • 3rd in the nation in After Dinner Speaking - Dillon White
  • 4th in the nation in Prose Interpretation - Dillon White
  • National Semi-Finalist (Top 12) in Impromptu Speaking - Priyanka Gupta (Sophomore)
  • National Semi-Finalist in Extemporaneous Speaking - Joshua Hiew
  • National Semi-Finalist in Informative Speaking - Stan Polit
  • National Semi-Finalist in Persuasive Speaking - Dillon White
  • National Quarter-Finalist (Top 24) in After Dinner Speaking - Tim Zachas (Freshman)

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