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WKU Forensics Team completes national championship sweep

WKU President Timothy C. Caboni congratulated the WKU Forensics Team for sweeping the AFA and...
WKU President Timothy C. Caboni congratulated the WKU Forensics Team for sweeping the AFA and NFA national titles during a recognition event Wednesday morning.(Clinton Lewis)
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 1:41 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The Western Kentucky University Forensics Team won both the National Forensic Association Individual Events Team Championship and the National Forensic Association Lincoln-Douglas Debate Team Sweepstakes national championship, hosted virtually this year April 16-19.

WKU sent 29 competitors with a total of 94 individual event entries and seven debate entries to this tournament. Of the 94 IE entries, WKU advanced 84 entries to the octofinal round, 58 students advanced to the quarterfinal round, 32 advanced to the semifinal round, and 20 students advanced to the final rounds of competition.

WKU entered seven debaters into the tournament. Of the total entries, six students advanced to the double octofinal round, five students advanced to the top 16 and three students advanced into the quarterfinal round (top 8). Sophomore Andre Swai of Springfield, Missouri, won the final round of Lincoln-Douglas Debate on a 4 to 3 decision, becoming the Lincoln-Douglas Debate National Champion. He represents WKU’s 12th L-D championship. Swai also became the first Black man to ever win the NFA National Championship in debate. In 2015, WKU’s Nefertiti Dukes became the first Woman of Color to win the NFA-LD championship. Additionally, WKU senior Ben Hanson of Louisville won the tournament’s Top Speaker Award in Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

In individual events, WKU was crowned team sweepstakes champion with 919 points, while the University of Texas at Austin placed second with 589.5 points, and Bradley University placed third with 530.5 points. Other top 10 schools included George Mason University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The WKU team was also crowned team sweepstakes champion in Lincoln-Douglas debate with 131 points, while the University of Nebraska-Lincoln placed second with 82 points, and Missouri State University placed third with 79 points. Other universities competing in debate include Pennsylvania State University, UCLA, John Carroll University and UC Berkeley.

In addition to the team’s success, forensics team members captured five out of the top 10 individual sweepstakes awards, which recognizes personal success across five different events across at least two different genres (i.e.: public address, limited preparation, interpretation). Senior Derek Collins won the Individual Sweepstakes Championship, junior Paige Allbright placed fifth, junior Kelly Lingen placed eighth, sophomore Caitlyn Woitena placed ninth, and senior Emma Warnecke placed 10th.

Director of Debate Chad Meadows said: “While debate recognizes individual accomplishments, it’s truly a team activity. This year’s debate program will be remembered for its teamwork, embrace of diverse pedagogical approaches, and character under fire. From August to April these students never let up, and to see them recognized for those efforts was truly special.”

“This is a historic victory for Western Kentucky University,” Director of Forensics Ganer Newman said. “Words fail to articulate how proud I am of this team, not only did we achieve historic results in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, our students in Individual Events broke our previous record for the total number of points scored at nationals. Our team members came together after a year characterized by isolation. We confronted many challenges as a squad this season, but countless hours of practice, the brilliant inventiveness of our coaches, the support of our alumni, and our students’ enduring competitive spirit resulted in a full sweep of the National Championships for WKU.”

Western Kentucky University is the only team in forensics history to win the American Forensics Association Team Championship, the National Forensics Association Individual Events Team Championship, and the National Forensics Association Debate Team Championship in the same year. WKU has accomplished this feat 10 times since 2003.

WKU President Timothy C. Caboni congratulated the team for its national championships during a recognition event Wednesday morning. “Students, I am so pleased with your work and with your drive to compete. And I am pleased with the awards you’ve brought home to the Hill and what they mean for you both individually and as a team -- and also what these successes mean for our University,” President Caboni said. “Your achievements serve as a testament, to all of our programs across our campus, of what’s possible when you consistently strive for, pursue and demand excellence.”

The NFA national tournament brings the competition year to a close. Soon, work will quickly begin for the next season. First, the team will move locations from the Garrett Conference Center, which has housed the team for over 15 years, to a new location. “Winning these championships in Garrett was an especially emotional experience,” Newman said. “It is not lost on me that some of the last sounds ever heard in this building are the voices of WKU Forensics team members, winning all of our national competitions in history-making fashion.”

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Double Octofinals

Miles Morton of Sherman Oaks, California

Octofinals

Isaac Keller of Kansas City, Missouri

Madelynn Einhorn of Oakwood, Ohio

Quarterfinals

Ben Hanson of Louisville, Kentucky

Tess Welch of Houston, Texas

NFA-LD Champion

Andre Swai of Springfield, Missouri

After Dinner Speaking

Quarterfinalists

Jo Headrick of Wadsworth, Ohio

Emma Warnecke of Detroit, Michigan

Reese Johnson of Burnsville, Minnesota

Kelly Lingen of Lakeville, Minnesota

Joey Eberle of Maple Grove, Minnesota

Dramatic Interpretation

Octofinalists

Rickey Williams of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Samantha Sallee of Danville, Kentucky

Kelly Lingen

Quarterfinalists

Caitlyn Woitena of Houston, Texas

Reggie Jefferson of Houston, Texas

Daliss Hicks of Miramar, Florida

Tayland Ratliff of Youngsville, Louisiana

Semifinalists

Jo Headrick

Finalists

Reese Johnson, 3rd

Paige Allbright of Youngsville, Louisiana, 5th

Duo Interpretation

Quarterfinalists

Reese Johnson and Jo Headrick

Semifinalists

Rashon Leday of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Tayland Ratliff

Caitlyn Woitena and Kelly Lingen

Paige Allbright and Corey Newsome of Morehead, Kentucky

Finalists

Derek Collins of Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Ryan Gosling of West Palm Beach, Florida, National Champions

Corey Newsome and Reese Johnson, 2nd

Daliss Hick and Ryan Gosling, 3rd

Extemporaneous Speaking

Octofinalists

Isaac Keller

Tani Washing of Henrico, Virginia

Miles Morton

Quarterfinalists

Tess Welch

Finalists

Rahmane Dixon of Houston, Texas, 5th

Impromptu Speaking

Octofinalists

Isaac Keller

Miles Morton

Quarterfinalists

Madelynn Einhorn

Semifinalists

Rahmane Dixon

Finalists

Tess Welch, 4th

Informative Speaking

Octofinalists

Jo Headrick

Kellin Robinson of Roseville, Minnesota

Kelly Lingen

Quarterfinalists

Derek Collins

Autumn Howard of Hendersonville, Tennessee

Rahmane Dixon

Finalists

Emma Warnecke of Detroit, Michigan, 2nd

Reese Johnson, 3rd

Rickey Williams, 4th

Persuasive Speaking

Octofinalists

Caitlyn Woitena

Autumn Howard

Naomi Desrosiers of Bowling Green, Kentucky

Emma Warnecke

Quarterfinalists

Paige Allbright

Finalists

Derek Collins, 2nd

Kelly Lingen, 6th

Program Oral Interpretation

Octofinalists

Kelly Lingen

Reggie Jefferson

Kellin Robinson

Stefani Giles of Hodgenville, Kentucky

Quarterfinalists

Corey Newsome

Semifinalists

Derek Collins

Rashon Leday

Paige Allbright

Finalists

Ryan Gosling, National Champion

Tayland Ratliff, 6th

Prose Interpretation

Octofinalists

Rashon Leday

Stefani Giles

Tayland Ratliff

Daliss Hicks

Quarterfinalists

Jo Headrick

Kelly Lingen

Emma Warnecke

Caitlyn Woitena

Rickey Williams

Semifinalists

Paige Allbright

Rhetorical Criticism

Octofinalists

Kellin Robinson

Quarterfinalists

Autumn Howard

Semifinalists

Corey Newsome

Finalists

Derek Collins, National Champion

Caitlyn Woitena, 4th

Rahmane Dixon, 5th

Tani Washington, 6h

Debate Speaker Awards

Ben Hanson, Top Speaker

Madelynn Einhorn, 2nd

Tess Welch, 8th

Individual Sweepstakes Awards

Derek Collins, Individual Event Sweepstakes Champion

Paige Allbright, 5th

Kelly Lingen, 8th

Caitlyn Woitena, 9th

Emma Warnecke, 10th

More: Check out the WKU Forensics Facebook page or follow @wkuforensics and @DebateWku on Twitter.