F is for Forensics: National champions continue successful ways

Austin, Texas, senior Matt Whitlock reads through a supporting article during a practice for the Forensics team’s competition at Concordia University in California this weekend. The topic for the year is reforming trade policies with China. The reason for having one topic for the year is to build strategies for debating along with when to reveal new arguments throughout the year.

Sidney Blanford

The WKU Forensics Team is more than just a club to full-time coach Ben Pyle.

Pyle, a WKU alumnus from Harrisburg, Ill., is now working as a second year full time coach for the team after being a member from 2004 to 2008.

“Forensics really gave me a future,” Pyle said.

He had initially planned on attending community college in his local area but instead forensics provided him with both a college degree and a job. Pyle said forensics helps engage the students and it is a great overall feeling to watch them succeed.

Forensics is a competitive speech and debate team that travels to competitions at universities across the nation where members participate in individual events.

This year’s team is comprised of 41 students that represent 17 different states. Each student gets the opportunity to participate in several different events.

For freshmen, the maximum number of events is three, while upperclassmen can compete in eight or nine different events.

Originating in 1903, the Forensics Team pre-dated the university and is believed to be the longest-running WKU student organization.

The team currently holds three national titles, the 2011 American Forensics Association (AFA) National Champions, the 2011 National Forensics Association (NFA) National Champions in Debate and Individual Events.

The team had a change in staff in July 2010 when Jace Lux became the new Director of Forensics. Lux had been a member of the team while he was a student at WKU and played a role on the coaching staff since 2001.

Lux said the team is comparable to any sports team in the sense that its are competitive, travel and recruit students from high school.

“Very much a family-like atmosphere, these students spend a lot of time together,” Lux said. “It becomes a real support system.”

After losing a handful of seniors to graduation, Lux said he has generated a very diverse, but still very young team this year.

First-year team member and freshman Austin Groves from Blue Springs, Mo., said he chose the WKU forensics team for its pride and tradition.

“I realized that it was the best team,” Groves said.

The team has also traveled to the international forensics tournament five times and each year of won overall.

“In terms of the skills you acquire, you become a more proficient writer and researcher,” Lux said. “You become better able to just communicate in general.”

Senior Matt Whitman from Austin, Texas, who has been a part of the forensics team since his freshman year, said it is what brought him to WKU.

“I feel like I have the skill set now to do anything I would like to do,” Whitman said.

Freshman Kristina Medero from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is currently competing in three events and is also a member of the Honors College. Medero has placed first, third, fifth and sixth in her respective events.

“I have gained a lot of friends,” Medero said. “It has also helped me develop a strict work ethic.”

Between scholarships and traveling expenses the forensics teams relies on both alumni donors, but also a solid support system from the university.

“The administration understands what we have to do to qualify, and are very supportive,” Lux said.

According to the WKU Forensics website, President Gary Ransdell said, “Our basketball teams have received a lot of attention for their recent successes, but those successes pale in comparison to what the forensics team has achieved. To be the best is a rare and proud accomplishment.”

The team has competed in several competitions this year beginning Sept. 17.

Bowling Green alum Chris Chandler is one of 10 team coaches that found himself returning to the team in 2004. Chandler said that his experience of being on the team while in college brought the job to him.

“I have definitely gained an appreciation of helping others and enjoying others’ success,” Chandler said.

The team won’t compete at national events this year until April and won’t host any more home competitions. Instead each student will travel three out of four weekends a month to various competitions.

While not as well known as various other student organizations on campus, the forensics team has made its name as one of the best in the nation.

“It has given me a lot of confidence and just school pride – being proud of where you’re from,” Groves said.