POWELL, Wyo. - Most athletic coaches agree that peak time is critical to year-end success. Turns out that's true for forensics teams, too. After three unbeaten years, the very young Northwest College Forensics Team took it on the chin a few times at the beginning of this academic year but paced themselves perfectly to perform when it really counts-at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Tournament (NPDA) and the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament.
Although most teams wouldn't consider second place finishes as "taking it on the chin," it was a break from the NWC forensics sweepstakes tradition. With only two returning sophomores this year, it took a few tournaments for the team to find its stride. After that, it was business as usual for the nationally recognized squad.
"I think our spring semester success is a testimony to the talent and hard work our students put in this year," said Bob Becker, one of the four NWC forensics coaches.
The two two-person debate teams Northwest sent to Lubbock, Texas, for the March 19-22
NPDA tournament finished first and second among community college teams. The team of Ben Norberg (Powell) and Laci Kennedy (Townsend, Mont.) posted a 4-4 win-loss record to claim the gold. Kaleb Olsen and Shelby Moore (both of Powell) teamed up for second place.
The tournament also recognizes teams in a year-long sweepstakes, which is determined by the schools' best four tournaments throughout the competitive season. Northwest placed fifth among community colleges in this category, following four California schools that have many more tournament opportunities through the year.
"More important than our competitive success, Jeannie Hunt said, "was the spirit of sportsmanship our students demonstrated when they invited a team without a coach to prepare cases, share coaches, and include them in activities outside of the debate. This shows what kind of student competitors we produce at NWC."
Six NWC forensics students traveled to New Orleans, La., April 5-10 for the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament, their final competition of the year.
As a team, NWC earned a silver medal overall, a silver medal in debate and a bronze medal in individual events. These awards are even more significant considering how few NWC students were competing against schools that fielded up to 14 competitors.
Kennedy made numerous trips to the medal podium at this tournament. She scored a gold medal in Lincoln Douglas debate, silver in persuasive speaking and Parliamentary debate, plus bronze in extemporaneous speaking. This made Kennedy the fifth-place finisher for the Bovero-Taber Award, given to the competitor who scores the most points for his or her school. Kennedy was fifth out of a pool of 401 students who competed at the tournament.
Moore followed suit with gold in extemporaneous speaking and bronzes in Lincoln Douglas and parliamentary debate. She finished 30th in the Bovero-Taber standings.
Glen Prell of Powell also scored two bronze medals-in poetry and drama. Olsen claimed a bronze in parliamentary debate, and Norberg took silver in the same field.
"It was a tremendous tournament for Northwest," coach Duane Fish said. "Given our slow rebuilding this year, we had an outstanding tournament. Not only are we the only Wyoming school to earn any awards, we were the top school in our region." Northwest's region includes Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, West Texas and Wyoming.
The tournament wasn't the only educational experience in New Orleans for NWC students, who are encouraged to explore the culture, history and contemporary issues of each city they visit.
"It was very good for our students to see the left over devastation from Katrina and to see a city that is still in need of help and recovery," coach Fred Ebert said. "It was certainly an eye opening experience."