The University of Lynchburg Debate and Forensics Team took 15 trophies home from the Collegiate Forensics Association Southern Excursion Tournament, held February 8 and 9 in Gastonia, North Carolina.
The team of Chelsey Fix ’19, Justin Cummings ’19, and Rhiannon Cire ’19 competed against colleges and universities from across the region, including Florida College, Randolph-Macon College, Liberty University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hampton University, and Lord Fairfax Community College.
The team competed in three event categories. “There are interpretive events, where they take somebody else’s speech or play or poetry and they interpret that,” Dr. Paula Youra, the team’s coach and a professor in the communication studies department, explained.
“There are original oratory events, where competitors are actually creating their own speech and delivering it. The third category is limited preparation. This would include parliamentary debate, impromptu speaking, and extemporaneous speaking. You don’t know what you’re speaking about until a couple of minutes beforehand.”
Fix, a management major from Lynchburg, Virginia, placed first in After Dinner Speaking, third in Single Dramatic Interpretation, and third in Pentathlon Speaker, which is the best performance in five events over three categories.
She teamed up with Cummings for a first place in Duo Dramatic Interpretation and a fourth in Parliamentary Debate (team), and paired up with Cire for a fifth place in Duo Dramatic Interpretation.
In the individual events, Cummings, a communication studies major from Lynchburg, Virginia, took first place in Persuasive Speaking, second in Parliamentary Debate (individual), fifth in Pentathlon Speaker, and sixth in Poetry. Cire, an art and computer science major from Montvale, Virginia, placed second in Prose and fourth in Poetry.
“The most important thing for people to realize is the competitors work harder than anyone can ever imagine,” Dr. Youra, who started Lynchburg’s debate and forensics team four years ago, said. “You don’t know unless you’ve actually been a competitor. Just to give you an idea of a typical tournament day, competitors will give speeches on the hour, and sometimes two and three times on the hour, for 12 hours at a time. So they’ll start at 7:30 in the morning and still be at it at 7:30 at night.”
Before each tournament, the team also puts in lots of practice. “They practice twice a week,” Dr. Youra said. “That’s an organized practice. They’re also practicing on their own, hours and hours each week, or they wouldn’t be good enough to even go to the tournament.”
The final tournament of the year will be held March 1 and 2 in Ocean City, Maryland. It will be the last event for Cummings and Fix, who will graduate in May.
“I’ve been involved in the debate team since the end of my first year on campus,” Cummings said. “It’s been an amazing experience and made me a more well-rounded individual. I’ve discovered new talents and made so many new friends. It’s bittersweet that it’s almost over but it’s been amazing.”