The Forensics Team at John Brown University won first place for the state of Arkansas at the Southern Forensics Championship Tournament. The tournament, held Jan. 25-27 at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, served as regional championships for the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The University’s trophy in individual speech events marks the first time the team won the state title since Erick Roebuck, assistant professor of communication, became coach in 2009. About five other teams from Arkansas competed in this year’s tournament.
Additionally, three University students won Arkansas state championships in their individual events: junior Josh McBride in impromptu speaking and in poetry interpretation, senior Andrew Goff in program oral interpretation, and Goff with sophomore Liz Coleman in duo interpretation. Goff and Coleman also placed sixth in the tournament overall.
Five other University students competed in a variety of events at the tournament: junior Broderick Wilson, sophomores Amanda Neely, Kaitlyn Thompson and Hannah Wright and freshman Lindsey Presnell.
Before the tournament, Roebuck said the event provided good practice for members of the team to work on their routines.
“It is important for us to keep preparing for the national tournament,” Roebuck said. “Hopefully we can do that while also making a strong showing at this championship. We have lots of talented performers doing fun events.”
McBride said competing at the state level is “always a rush” because of the amount of talent present in the students.
“All these people who all love this just as much as you, it’s awesome,” he said.
Roebuck attributed the team’s success to hard work.
“They picked good pieces with original topics,” Roebuck said. “There is natural talent involved, but talent is realized when students work hard.”
“We did well for a club team competing against teams who have students on scholarship,” he added.
For Neely, her first time to participate in a tournament was “a bit rough.”
She chose events where she becomes another character, allowing distance between her performance and her anxiety of speaking in front of people. One of her routines was in the prose category, for which she read a chapter from “The Fault in Our Stars,” one of her favorite books.
“The author, John Green…has been preternaturally helpful and inspiring in my own life,” Neely said. “It’s only natural that I wish to perform one of his works to the best of my ability.”
Neely said her routine took longer than normal at the tournament because of her nervousness.
“But overall it was a good initiation,” she said. “It showed me how much work my competitors put into their pieces as well as the things on which I need to improve.”
Coleman said she had looked forward to witnessing to people at the tournament.
“Most of our pieces do have some sort of a moral Christ-like message,” she said. “So just being able to share the gospel in little ways, whether or not we actually have a conversation with a person, is really exciting.”
She added that the team enjoyed the trip and watching other schools compete.
“It was cool to see how God was working in the lives of other people through drama,” she said.
Roebuck also said the team kept in mind a “higher purpose.”
“Part of why we do this is to become stronger communicators for Christ,” Roebuck said. “We see this both as a ministry by building relationships with others and as an educational opportunity.”
The University will be hosting the National Christian College Forensics Association Championship on March 9-11.