Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Photo credits: “Microphone” (CC BY 2.0) by p_a_h via Flickr

West Chester University’s Speech and Debate Team recently wrapped up their 2021–2022 season with a series of highly successful tournaments.

Led by Director of Forensics Nick Prephan, and Assistant Coach Alexis Hughes, the Golden Rams traveled to Orlando, Florida to take part in the Pi Kappa Delta Biennial Convention. The tournament took place from March 9 through 12 on the campus of University of Central Florida, and was the first in-person nationals since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Chester sent six first-time competitors to the event: Ryan Brady (senior), Olivia Marquardt (Junior), Elizabeth Mackenzie (Junior), August Harlow (first year), Nadia Hathaway (first year) and Gabrielle Nguyen (first year). The Rams had an impressive weekend as a unit, bringing home three national titles, and finishing 21st overall. Mackenzie won Prose Interpretation, and was a part of the reader’s theater team, along with Harlow and Marquardt, that won a national title. Brady won the Congressional debate and was recognized alongside Marquardt, and Mackenzie for Excellence in Program Oral Interpretation, Poetry and Impromptu Speaking respectively.

“If I were to answer honestly, it is truly bonkers to me,” said Elizabeth Mackenzie when asked about bringing home a national championship. “When I was recruited for the team, I was mainly in the mindset of enjoying an activity that I had loved so much when I was younger. I really didn’t get into this with the utmost determination to win anything, just to gain more experience and make some new friends. The fact that I managed to win a national title my first year with the team was just a bonus! I’m pretty proud of myself and especially proud of my team for such an amazing season.”

Following their successful Nationals trip, West Chester participated in their final competition of the season, the Pennsylvania Forensics Association State Tournament, on March 26 and 27 at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Originally intended to be held in February, the event was pushed back to March in order to be held in an in-person setting. For this trip, The Golden Rams sent 11 competitors: Zahra Husain (Senior), Evan Brooks (senior), Adam Reiland (senior), Luke Wheeler (Sophomore), Jacob Watson (1st year) to go along with the aforementioned Brady, Marquardt, Mackenzie, Harlow, Hathaway and Nguyen.

The team won three state titles, and came in first place in the presidential sweepstakes, and second overall behind Lafayette College. In a group effort, Watson and Wheeler won the parliamentary debate. Individually, Watson won the Extemporaneous Speaking event, while Harlow captured the Rhetorical Criticism title. Brady competed in seven events, and placed second overall in the individual sweepstakes. In the process, Brady qualified for the Interstate Oratory Association bid in Persuasive Speaking. However, he declined the bid with the intention of finishing his college career alongside his teammates. 

When asked about his decision to decline the IOA bid, Brady said “This team and activity means so much to me, the idea of finishing it alone away from my team in Indianapolis didn’t sit right with me. I gave my last speech surrounded by friends in my home state of Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My goal this season was to end on a high note, and I believe I accomplished that. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the future of this program.”

This year was coach Nick Prephan’s second season at the helm for the Golden Rams, and his eighth year coaching overall. When asked about what he is most proud of about this team, he said “I am most proud of the community the squad has been able to build. The circuit has had to go virtual for the past two years, which has made it difficult to form the types of bonds that teams normally develop. However, this team has been able to form a strong, inclusive community in spite of the many challenges they were faced with. I was never more proud of my team than when I saw this community develop organically.”

The Golden Rams will be returning seven members of the team next year, with Brady, Brooks, Husain and Reiland all graduating. With the return of in-person competitions after a two year virtual experience due to COVID-19 safety regulations, West Chester will look to carry their momentum into next season. 

“Next season I’m feeling motivated to get more pieces up,” says Olivia Marquardt, who will be returning to the team for her senior season. “I want to expand my horizon and try some new categories so that I can better myself as a speaker. I’m also excited to travel and compete with my team. I’ve gotten really close with several of them, and I cannot wait to make more memories together and support one another at competitions. I also hope we can recruit more people and expand the number of team members. Overall, I am really hopeful for next season and think we are going to do even better than we did this year.”

Erick Klambara is a third-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Journalism.

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