Speech and Debate Team places in the top 10 nationally three times

Photo Credit: Debate Team
by Aaron Duncan Mon, 04/29/2024 - 16:49

Photo above: Debate Team. Front: Assistant coach Andre Swai, Britton Teply Loc Nguyen, Arjun Rishi, Juliana Quartrocchi, Nevin Butler, Jacob Wolfe, Chloe Ong, Jack Burchess, Serena Schadl, Elena Belashchenko. Back: Jack Britten, Assistant coach Zach Thornhill, Grant McKeever, Caleb Alexander, Wallenburg, Joel Henson, coach Justin Kirk.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Speech and Debate Team continued their tradition of success. The team placed in the top 10 in the nation at the National Speech Tournament, National Debate Tournament, and Interstate Oratory Tournament. 

The Debate Team placed fourth in Lincoln Douglas Debate at the National Forensic Association’s National Tournament held at Central Michigan University from April 18-22. The Speech Team finished seventh at the American Forensic Association’s National Speech Tournament, which took place April 6-8 on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Finally, the team placed seventh at the Interstate Oratorical Association’s National Tournament held in Chicago, Illinois April 26-28.

The Husker Debate Team is one of the deepest and youngest in the country. Fifteen students qualified for the national tournament, setting a national record. The team was led by sophomore Grant McKeever from Olathe Kansas and junior Zachary Wallenburg from Lenexa, Kanas. Seven Huskers posted winning records and advanced to elimination rounds. Wallenburg advanced to the quarterfinals, and McKeever made it to the final four. This was the third consecutive year, and fifth in six years, that UNL has had a student make the final four. UNL captured the National Championship in Debate in 2022 and 2023.

Speech Team 2024

Speech Team. Front: Elizabeth Harding, Caitlyn Enderle, Gwen Leuschen, Hailey Cheek, Sydney Kwasa, Kayli Pham, Kaitlyn Peterson. Middle: Eliana Siebe-Walles, Tamyia Bender, Emma Cavalier, Janana Khattak, Maddie Stoerp, Shelby Hindman, Victoria Thomas, coach Allison Bonander. Back: Assistant coach Cassidy Emmerich, Kallum Osborn, David Swotek, Marcus Cuerton, Zoey Moser, Reed Greger, assistant coach Daniel Wheaton, assistant coach Isabella Scaturro, director Aaron Duncan.

The team’s success in debate comes on the heels of its achievements early this month at the National Speech Tournament, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. UNL qualified 20 students to the National Speech Tournament where they competed against 57 universities and colleges across the country. The team finished seventh in the nation.

The tournament was highlighted by senior Janana Khattak of Lincoln, who was the national runner up in communication analysis, and senior Victoria Thomas, who placed sixth in program oral interpretation. Senior Eliana Siebe-Walles of Omaha and Khattak were also selected to the National All-American Team. Only 16 students in the nation achieved All-American status this year. The team advanced 19 events to elimination rounds, a team record, and five events to the semifinal round.

The team also set a record for first-year students advancing to elimination rounds. Elizabeth Harding of Schuyler, Nebraska and Kaitlyn Peterson of Gering, Nebraska advanced to the semifinal round in extemporaneous speaking and dramatic interpretation. Tamyia Bender of Omaha, Nebraska was a quarterfinalist in poetry interpretation.

Additionally, assistant coach Cassidy Emmerich was awarded the organization's Outstanding New Coach Award.

“The entire coaching staff is proud of the hard work and dedication our students put in this year," Aaron Duncan, director of speech and debate, said. "One thing we pride ourselves on is that we are one of a few universities in the nation to be ranked highly in both speech and debate.”

The debate team was led to success by Justin Kirk, director of the debate team, and graduate assistant coach Zachary Thornhill. Kirk praised the leadership of the upper-class students in the team and the dedication of the younger students.

"Our first-year students are incredible," he said. "They work in such synergy with each other, it is a sight to behold.”

The speech team was led by Allison Bonander and assistant coaches Cassidy Emmerich and Isabella Scaturro.

“The UNL Speech and Debate Team has been around for 152 years," Bonander said. "We are humbled to have the opportunity to participate and add to the legacy of this great institution and team.”

“We appreciate the awards, but our students are not defined by them," Duncan said. "They are defined by their hard work, thoughtfulness, resilience, and selflessness. Their success is the product of extraordinary effort, but also the product of a great university that values research, integrity, and the search for knowledge. UNL is an institution that celebrates debate, discussion, and dialogue. We owe a great debt to the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, alumni, and the Chancellor’s Office.”

The Speech and Debate team is part of UNL’s Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. The department explores human communication as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions, and societies. Its main areas of expertise are interpersonal and family communication, organizational communication, and rhetoric and public culture.