UA Forensics Council brings home tournament victories

Mark Hammontree

Last week, the members of the Alabama Forensics Council returned home from a week-long trip to Arizona with another top 10 finish at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament.

The team of around 24 students competed in individual competitions in a wide range of categories, from drama interpretation to extemporaneous speaking. Points from the individual performances contributed toward the team total, which landed the University’s team in the ninth spot nationally among the 83 schools attending the competition.

Katerina Peña, a senior team member, said the team’s performance this year was special because each member contributed toward the point totals, even if they didn’t all reach the final round in their events.

“People congratulate usually just the people that broke, but it really is a big deal that this year actually, everyone on the team participated towards our points,” Peña said. “Prelim points add up to make a big difference.”

(See also “Award-winning speech team to host showcase“)

Students could compete in any of 12 events, including impromptu speaking, extemporaneous speaking and poetry interpretation.

Peña said breaking past the preliminary rounds at the national competition is an extremely hard and often narrowly achieved feat.

“One of the events, prose interpretation, there were over 180 students participating in it, I believe, and when quarterfinals drop, only 24 advance,” Peña said. “So, 180 to 24. It is a very tough thing. It’s a big deal when you break at nationals.”

Collin Metcalf, a senior on the team, won first place in extemporaneous speaking, third place in impromptu speaking and 10th place overall speaker at the competition. Metcalf said when it was finally announced that he won first place in extemporaneous speaking, an event in which he had placed in the top 10 but outside of the top three twice before, he felt a mixture of emotions.

(See also “Forensics Council takes home top-ten finish at nationals“)

“I’ve been in the final round of extemporaneous speaking at AFA three out of my four years,” Metcalf said. “My freshman year, I placed sixth, and my junior year, I placed fourth, so when it got down to the last three, I really started to get nervous. I had already beaten my previous best, but my heart was still racing for the possibility of the championship. The moment they called out Farrah’s [the second place finisher] name, I entered this state of meditative-like peace. I knew I had finally reached the peak I had been climbing toward my entire speech career, and it felt right.”

The Alabama Forensics Council was founded in 1946 and has won multiple championships at different regional and national competitions since its founding, including 13 AFA-NIET national championships. The AFC travels as a team to different tournaments and events almost every weekend, Metcalf said, and the hard work he and his teammates have put in over their time at the University has paid off in more ways than one.

“This year’s results were a culmination of four years of nonstop dedication to an activity I love,” Metcalf said. “While most students are spending their weekends partying, we warm the seat of a 12-passenger van on our way to wake up at 5 a.m., giving speeches all day to people literally paid to critique us. Objectively speaking, it’s asinine. But realistically, it has been the single most beneficial experience of my life.”

(See also “Forensics Council ‘show off’ public speaking skills“)