On Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16, the Concordia speech team went head to head with speech teams from around the state on their home turf at the 2020 Minnesota Collegiate Forensics Association (MCFA) State Tournament. Concordia, the host team and the reigning state champions took first at the tournament, beating out major competitors like the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato.
At this weekend’s tournament, students competed in 10 out of 11 of the American Forensics Association (AFA) categories (after dinner speaking, communication analysis, drama interpretation, impromptu speaking, poetry interpretation, extemporaneous speaking, dramatic duo, informative speaking, program oral interpretation and prose interpretation), oratory, parliamentary debate and an experimental speaking category called improvisational duo.
The only AFA category not included in this tournament was persuasive, which was replaced by oratory. The two categories are similar, but where persuasive speeches focus more on the cold, hard facts, oratory speeches typically persuade using facts paired with emotional appeal. By having oratory instead of persuasive, the MCFA State Tournament serves as the qualifying tournament for the Interstate Oratorical Contest. The top two finalists in the category advance to the prestigious contest, held every year since 1874, where they will represent the state of Minnesota and compete against the best speakers from other states. This year, those two finalists were Leah Roberts and Josephine Nunez of Concordia.
The Concordia team went into the weekend with feelings of excitement and nervousness.
“There’s been kind of a buzz around the team.” said Ta’mia Hedlin, a first-year student who competed in the categories of after dinner speaking and dramatic interpretation. “You can tell that everyone’s really excited and we all get pretty competitive.”
In collegiate speech, individuals can compete in up to six categories. At Concordia, first-years are required to compete in two, while sophomores, juniors and seniors are required to compete in three or more categories.
The team begins work on their pieces in the beginning of the school year and competes with those pieces until the national meet in April. During the season, the goal is to work towards qualifying a piece for nationals, but the state tournament offers the special opportunity to be recognized as the best in the state as a team or individual. Unlike most of their regular season tournaments, the MCFA State Tournament is spread out over two days, giving the tournament a special feel, but also leaving more time between rounds to feel nervous.
“With just a single tournament being spread over two days its relaxing because you have more down time but it’s more nerve-wracking because there is more time to wait for results to come out,” said Noah Tiegs, a junior on the team. He competed in prose interpretation, impromptu speaking, communication analysis and duo interpretation this weekend.
Najla Amundson, assistant professor of communication studies and director of speech at Concordia, coaches the team and also planned the weekend’s tournament with the help of Zach Oehm, assistant director of speech.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” said Amundson.
For the tournament to run smoothly, they had to think about every detail, from the obvious aspects of a tournament like room reservation, to more behind the scenes problems like where to store the trophies in the days leading up to the tournament.
Finding and scheduling judges is another important part of planning a tournament. Judges for Concordia speech tournaments usually consist of speech program alumni, staff of the communication department and professionals from the community with specialties in writing and speaking.
“Having people there to critique, to judge, to watch the students has also been a large part that both of us have been working on, because without people watching students, there is really no tournament to be had,” said Oehm.
All the preparation that went into the weekend and the team’s performance in the competition made the MCFA State Tournament a huge success for the Concordia speech program.