Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Northwest Christian University Forensics Team enjoyed its first taste of success in mid-November, and was left hungry for more. According to sophomore Sam Robison, “It was a great learning experience and overall a great trip.”

The team, nicknamed the “Speakin’ Beacons,” traveled to McMinnville on November 14 to compete at the R. D. Mahaffey Memorial Forensics Tournament, hosted annually by Linfield College since 1930. Sophomore Jed Noles described it as “A lot like a wrestling tournament, only with less athletes and no spandex.” Robison and Noles were joined by senior Jeramy Anderson, junior Jason Bell, and first-years Ryan Vermilyea and Areyell Williams, to make up NCU’s traveling squad.

The competitors entered events in three categories: oral interpretation of literature, including poetry, prose, drama, and a special “mad libs” event invented by the tournament host; platform speaking, both informative and persuasive; and impromptu speaking, in which speakers were given a quote and allowed up to two minutes to prepare a five minute speech to be given immediately. In each event, the students spoke three times, grouped with four or five competitors from other schools, and a judged ranked the presentations from best to worst.

Robison received one first place ranking for his informative speech on infinity, Anderson a first place ranking for his poetry about nightmares, and Noles received a first place ranking for his dramatic monologue about domestic violence. Robison said, “My performance was the best I could do at that time. However, I feel that there is room for improvement and look forward to the next one.” After the three preliminary rounds were complete, the top speakers in the tournament, by lowest total of ranks, advanced to an elimination round to determine final placement. Noles’ rankings in impromptu speaking earned him a spot in the semifinals, where he placed #10 overall in his first attempt at the event. “That’s my favorite event,” said Noles. “I've still got a long ways to go before I get to my potential, though.”

On Thursday night, before departing for the tournament, the Speakin’ Beacons staged a showcase for the NCU campus, attended by twenty NCU students, faculty and staff. Williams and Noles presented impromptu speeches, Robison his informative speech, Vermilyea his poetry, and Noles and Bell their dramatic monologues. Robison commented, “Jason gave an excellent dramatic interpretation. His performance sucked me into his piece and made me laugh and tear up, which is the kind of piece it is supposed to be. When he gave his piece, I saw the nine-year old boy he was in the piece, not Jason Bell.” Noles agreed: “I enjoyed Jason's monologue very much. It just proves that he's a kid at heart, I guess.”

The Speakin’ Beacons travel to two tournaments each semester, and the tournaments are no more than a two hour drive from Eugene. Students can receive academic credit for participating on the team by registering for COMM 322. The class obligates its enrollees to attend a half-hour team meeting each week, whose time is negotiated to fit everyone’s schedule, and also to schedule a half-hour one-on-one coaching session each week with Doyle Srader, the director of forensics at NCU. Students are also free to compete without registering for the class if they choose.

Says Noles, “Our school is training pastors, teachers, people in many other professions in which they will be representing Christ in a world that needs to experience His love. Having this kind of experience in public and impromptu speaking makes us ready for the situations that will arise in life where we will need to proclaim the message of the cross.”

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