‘This is our crowning achievement’: WKU Forensics team wins ‘hallmark tournament’

Damon Stone, News reporter

The WKU Forensics team recently won at the National Forensics Association Tournament, hosted at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. 

The tournament was held April 14 through 18, with 31 competitors being sent to the tournament, winning the overall championship out of 55 total schools. 

“This is our crowning achievement,” Ganer Newman, director of forensics, said. “Every year, this is the national competition we’re always focusing our energy on, kind of working towards. We went to other national championships this year, and won those as well, but NFA is always our hallmark tournament at the end of the season.” 

The National Forensics Association Tournament is a large, comprehensive tournament that hosts both speech and debate housed in the same national organization. 

“It was a lot of fun, it was exhausting, but they did super well.” Newman said. 

They brought a total of 101 individual events to the tournament, ranging from a wide variety of topics, with there being nine debate events at the tournament, with the overall topic being on campaign finance reform. 

“Our students on the debate side did a tremendous amount of preparation, thinking about every possible angle of that topic, both on the affirmative side […] and even on the negative side,” Newman said. “[…] They were trying to think through every possible angle of that topic.” 

With debate, there were six preliminary rounds, with the winners of the rounds moving to the elimination rounds, similar to an NCAA bracket, according to Chad Meadows, the director of debate. 

“We were really fortunate that we had two make it to the elite eight this year, we were one of two schools that had multiple students in the elite eight.” Meadows said. “[…] Every year is unique, both in terms of the topic and the students themselves, and I think as we went on during the season. I think we realized that for this year, it was going to be really important to have really high quality arguments and lots of backing and arguments to back up our arguments.” 

Going into the National Forensics Association Tournament, the team had a great deal of confidence, because of their previous winnings at other tournaments, such as the Pi Kappa Delta tournament in March, with the students having built up to this success. 

Over the course of the season, students were able to learn about what they enjoyed about performance, and the things they enjoyed about sharing with a group of people, building their confidence, according to Newman. 

“That’s something that I was very proud to see,” Newman said. “Everybody on the team, despite tremendous, or various, setbacks they faced, they all rose above those challenges, stayed motivated in school, stayed motivated in the activity, stayed motivated in all their various campus activities, and decided at the end to be the best. That confidence that they develop over the course of that time, for every student, is a unique thing, but it is really what makes this activity so transformational.” 

One challenge that the team faced over the course of the season was that of space, with the Forensics building not being adequate to house practice, according to Newman.

“[…] I was very appreciative to the psychology department and the mathematics department out in [Kelly Thompson Hall] and [College High Hall].” Newman said. “They allowed us to use their classrooms to prepare the students for this year, and that was incredibly influential in improving their performance over the course of the season, so I definitely wanted to say thank you to them, and sorry for all the noise that we’ve brought and any disruptions that we might’ve caused. We’re really excited about the future of the program.”

In the coming years, the future home of the Forensics team will be at the Hilltopper Field House, allowing for more space to practice in. 

“We’re really appreciative of our president, of our provost, and all the folks in academic affairs who are very helpful in providing the budget to do what we get to do.” Newman said. “I want to thank Jessica Steenburgen [in] Academic Affairs who helped us coordinate and get those extra rooms, and I want to thank anyone who ever attended our showcases or who helped judge for any competitions on the hill. The community involvement in what we’re doing over here is so essential to our success, and I just wanted to say that [these] national championships are [representative] of what this community values and sees in us, so we really appreciate everybody for their support.”

Reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected]