The University of Lynchburg’s Debate and Forensics Team brought several trophies home from the Collegiate Forensics Association Southern Excursion Tournament held in Gastonia, North Carolina, this past weekend.
Scoring a fourth place in the Team Sweepstakes, Lynchburg also had a number of individual placements.
The team went up 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. Like other forensics competitions, the CFA tournament includes three general categories of speech and debate, plus options for a number of events in each category.
Forensics captain Rhiannon Cire ’20, an art and computer science major from Montvale, Virginia, won first place in the After Dinner Speaking category, third place for Parliamentary Debate Speaker, fourth place in Prose, fifth place in Duo Dramatic Interpretation with teammate Grace Smith ’23, and sixth place in Duo Dramatic Interpretation with teammate and debate captain Maddy Piectrazak ’20.
Piectrazak, a communications studies major and theatre minor from Townsend, Delaware, placed first in Communication Analysis, third in After Dinner Speaking, fourth in the Lincoln/Douglas Debate, and sixth place in the Pentath category, where she competed in interpretation, original oratory, and limited prep events. She also scored a sixth place in Duo Dramatic Interpretation with Cire.
“I think the most exciting part of the competition was that all of the hard work I’ve put into debate and forensics really paid off,” Piectrazak said. “I’ve spent hours on my individual pieces… Being able to take most of them to finals justified that the amount of work I put in was worth it.”
Seeing the rest of her team succeed, too, was icing on the cake.
“I’m so proud to be part of a team that has such empowering, intelligent women, as well as an amazing coach,” Piectrazak added. “Over these past months we really became best friends, so seeing them do so well during the competition made me so, so proud.”
Grace Smith, a biomedical science major from Crewe, Virginia, placed fourth in Informative Speaking and fifth in Duo Dramatic Interpretation with Cire.
Rheanna Weeks ’22, a biology major and German minor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, competed in Parliamentary Debate, Persuasive Speaking and Prose, and contributed to the team’s fourth-place finish in Team Sweepstakes.
“The average person may not realize the intense, competitive nature of debate and forensics tournaments, but when you do understand the grueling schedule our team members maintain, you cannot help but be impressed with these amazing women,” said team coach Dr. Paula Youra, professor of communication studies and director of the Center for Professional Communication.
The Debate and Forensics Team practices together several times a week, while also working on individual pieces on their own time, Youra noted. Tournaments run over two days and can last all day, with competitors presenting speeches for up to 12 hours a day. Typically, that’s four to eight debates, and up to 15 speeches per day.
“This team is particularly hard-working and accomplished,” Youra said. “Their dedication to this intellectual sport is impressive. I marvel at their ability to support each other, work as a team, and also excel in individual events.”