P O W E L L, W y o. - The Northwest College Forensics Team is forcing the regional collegiate forensics community to stand up and take notice. The team has posted an "unprecedented" season by claiming community college championship sweepstakes at every tournament it has attended so far during the 2006-07 academic year. The only tournaments where NWC speakers didn't walk away with top honors were two that don't offer community college sweepstakes (and where NWC was the only two-year college participating in a field of four-year university teams).
"This is the best record in the 30 years I've been coaching here," NWC Forensics Co-director Duane Fish, said. "We're not just winning sweepstakes, we're bringing home, in some cases, almost half the top trophies given at a tournament."
Bob Becker, the other forensics co-director, and Jeannie Hunt, the third forensics coach, work with Fish in preparing the NWC team for competitions. They use words like "outstanding" and "amazing" over and over again to describe their team's individual finishes and current dominant presence in western states collegiate forensics.
The team's spring success started Jan. 19 at Rocky Mountain College's Rimrock Classic where in addition to top honors for two-year schools, NWC also took fourth overall among both two- and four-year institutions. Thirteen of the 18 NWC speakers attending brought home awards, including four of the top five debate speaker awards. The NWC Forensics Squad previewed the depth of its ranks by placing in 10 of the 12 individual events offered at the tournament and showcased its star quality by taking first in five of those 12 events.
In claiming the championship, the NWC team nearly doubled the sweepstakes points of the second place team. In overall team standing, Northwest was followed by Carroll College in second and Sheridan College in third.
"This was a great win for us," Fish said, "Carroll always fields excellent squads. In the past, they've been our nemesis, but this time we came out on top."
Brett Delaney of Casper led the long list of top trophy haulers with firsts in both After Dinner Speaking and Dramatic Interpretation. Chelsea Hampton of Cody followed suit with a first in Program Oral Interpretation.
Lovell's Bryce Cornatzer grabbed first in Prose Interpretation, while Traci Hill of Casper and Grant Langdon of Powell wrapped up the top spot in Duo Interpretation. Northwest swept the two top spots in the Inexperienced Debate Division by tying for first with teams fielded by Ben Brown of Lovell and Lilli Schoer of Billings, Mont., and Cornatzer and Tom Davidson of Burlington. Brown was also named the top speaker in Novice Division. Following this list of first place finishers is an even longer list of Northwest's second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place winnings.
NWC earned the distinction of being called a "juggernaut" after its success at the next pair of back-to-back tournaments Feb. 1-3, which collectively are called the Flatlands Fiesta Forensics Tournament. Held on the Laramie County Community College campus, the double bill features one competition hosted by LCCC and one by Hastings College of Nebraska.
It was Jordan Palmer, president of the Hastings College Forensics Team, who dubbed the NWC squad a "juggernaut" when NWC continued its dominance of regional competition by winning both tournaments as well as the combined sweepstakes trophy.
During the three-day competition, 26 events were held, and Northwest students won twelve of them, an "amazing" feat according to the NWC coaches.
NWC's unprecedented success in the Novice Debate event caused a little confusion during the first tournament - the semifinal Novice Debate rounds feature the top four teams, but since NWC had a lock on the top six spots, the semifinals were cancelled and all first-through-fourth placed NWC teams were declared co-winners. In addition to Brown, Schoer and Hill, other team members included Loni Sallee of Roundup, Mont.; ReAnna Kero of Red Lodge, Mont.; and Kristian Satterlee, Zack Eckerdt and Doni Chouinard, all of Powell. The final ending of the prestigious open debate category was strikingly similar with two NWC teams tied for first place. Those teams were fielded by Cornatzer, Hampton, Langdon and Nolan Goubeaux of Cody.
"This is the best showing by debaters since I've been coaching at Northwest," Fish said. "To have six teams tie for first place is amazing. I couldn't be more pleased. This group of students is amazing."
Many NWC students were multiple winners throughout the weekend. At the LCCC tournament, NWC won four individual events. Delaney was first in After Dinner Speaking, and Cornatzer won the Prose Interpretation event. Langdon placed first in Poetry Interpretation, to which he added a first in Duo Interpretation along with Hill.
The second tournament featured the same success with Northwest winning more than its share of trophies. Of the 11 events conducted, NWC walked away with the top trophies in five - sweeping up almost half of the tournament's biggest hardware (forensics slang for trophies).
Langdon struck gold three times in Dramatic Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation and again in Duo Interpretation with Hill. Goubeaux won the Persuasive Speaking event, and Satterlee was tops in Informative Speaking. A slew of second through sixth place trophies also traveled back to NWC.
Northwest forensics will compete at just two more tournaments in preparation for nationals - the perennially tough Air Force Academy Tournament in Colorado and the Western States competition at the University of Puget Sound in Washington. After that, Northwest will head to novice nationals and the community college regionals in March, and then to the community college nationals in April at Houston, Texas.
"We've been performing very well in regional competitions, now it's time to see how they perform at the national level," Fish said.