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Forensics team prepares for nationals, builds new foundation
Ashley Leever
Antelope Staff
Photo by Staff
Staff Photo The UNK Forensics Team Clockwise from center front: Director of Forensics Rachelle Kamrath, Assistant Director of Forensics Amanda Young, Cassandra Larreau, Trevor Woodward, Brooke Alstrom, Brandon Pettigrew, Robert Friedman, Clayton Friedeman and Emily Webb. The team dates back as far as 1905 and attends 25 tournaments each season.
Infographic by Staff

With hands shaking, the speaker attempts to steady himself by gripping the podium. The words on the paper blur in front of him as he reads through it, not caring if anyone can understand.
For many students, public speaking is a familiar “worst nightmare,” but for seven UNK students, it’s a lifestyle.

“Forensics is a combination of competition, enjoyment and education. It’s a great opportunity for students to come in and be part of a competitive activity where they learn from the hard work they put in, but they also learn something about themselves to share with others,” said Amanda Young, assistant coach of UNK’s forensic team.

“We focus on the speeches that you would learn in your basic Speech 100 class, but there are also events such as prose, poetry or dramatic interpretation. It’s a good balance of skills and talents,” said Rachelle Kamrath, head coach of UNK’s forensics team.

Members are not required to have competed in forensics in the past, but a background in public speaking is helpful. “Because our team is so young, the biggest challenge has been the transition from high school to college speech. High school speech doesn’t have that education aspect like college does. College speech is much more detailed and specific. College speech season is also much lengthier than high school, so our team has to have endurance,” said Brandon Pettigrew, assistant coach for the forensics team.

With a season stretching from September to April, the forensics team has a longer season than most athletic teams. “The time commitment is one of the biggest challenges of forensics. We leave Friday afternoons and get back late Sunday night, and that’s just for competition. I spend a good four to five hours a week working on my events,” said Cassie Larreau, a sophomore economics major from Kearney. The team travels
throughout Nebraska and the surrounding areas, often driving as far as 13 hours for competitions.

With long hours spent together on bus rides, meet, and practices, the forensics team has formed a tight-knit bond. “Forensics is not just an activity; it’s a lifestyle. With small teams like ours, it becomes less of a team format and more like a family. We enjoy each other’s company and fight sometimes, but overall we are a very converse team and always talk to each other,” said Robert Friedman, a sophomore accounting major from Plattsmouth.

It’s a rebuilding year for UNK’s young team, with only two returning sophomores and five freshmen. “We lost a lot of upperclassmen last year, so this year we are reloading with talented first-year students. Our sophomores are doing exceptional, as well as our new members. We are having a lot of fun,” Kamrath said. With most of their work behind them, the students are fine-tuning their events for the state championship completion on February 20 and nationals.

In order for students to compete at nationals, they must qualify for the final rounds in their respective events at a minimum of three separate tournaments throughout the season. “We work on a point system. The cumulative rank of those three final rounds must add up to eight or less. So for example, if a student wins third place in poetry, then later in the semester they win second place at a tournament, they now have what we call two legs. And now, for any tournament for the rest of the year, they need to rank third place or better to qualify for the national tournament,” Kamrath explained.

Five of UNK’s members have already qualified for the national competition. “We are working to improve the events that have already qualified and improve the events that are almost there,” Kamrath said.

As the team gains more experience and continues to grow, the camaraderie between them has become their biggest asset. “My team is my support system, and I have no idea how I would survive a normal week without them,” Larreau said.

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