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Ohio University Forensics Team takes huge jump in national standings
Team meets goal and prepares for premier national tournament

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 6, 2007) -- The Ohio University Debate and Forensics Team recently met an aggressive season goal of placing in 40 nationally qualified events. The accomplishment firmly places the team in National Forensics Association Division I, an honor reserved for only the top 10 percent of schools, based on numbers of nationally qualified entries.

"We jumped from Division IV to Division I," Cassese Director of Forensics Dan West said of the accomplishment, which took place at a tournament held on the Athens campus Jan. 27 and 28. Last year, the team finished fourth in Division IV and 35th overall.

Photos by Michael Kleinfeld"What I really am impressed with is that we came back from winter break with only 21 events qualified for national competition," West said. "We added an additional 20 new events in January, which meant we were working really fast under tight deadlines to prepare for the recent tournament. For us to make it to 40 was just a huge jump; we doubled our nationally qualified entries in three weeks."

"It's huge. We're on our way to a goal of 75 of 80 events next year, which would put us in the top four or five schools in the nation," West said.

All 11 Ohio University team members will compete in the NFA's National Tournament, April 19-23 at Berry College in Rome, GA. And though this is turning out to be a stand-out year for the group, it already is well recognized on campus and beyond. With its beginnings in 1811, the Forensics Program was Ohio University's first extracurricular organization. The team also was one of the founding members of the NFA, the leading forensics organization in the nation.

That prestige has helped bring in some top talent. West recruited freshman Danielle Bernat to Ohio University after she finished fifth in the nation at the National Forensics League high school tournament in Dallas last year. She has qualified to perform in seven events at the upcoming NFA tournament (competition categories include informative speaking, persuasive speaking, after dinner speaking, extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking, rhetorical criticism, prose interpretation, poetry interpretation and/or dramatic duo). Although she had a background in speech and debate, Bernat's first season at Ohio University has motivated her to reach new heights.

"This experience has given me confidence in class, work experience and life experience," Bernat said. "To be able to talk in front of 3,000 people on stage says something about how you will spend the rest of your life."

For senior and team veteran Dan DiLoreto, the time he's put into honing his craft has already paid off.

"Employers view this experience as a great thing," he said. "I've had employers tell me that they picked me for the internship because of this experience and the skills that you develop."

Photos by Michael KleinfeldNo one understands that statement better than John Cassese, BSC '76, MA '79, who competed on the team as an undergraduate, served as a graduate assistant coach while earning his master's degree at Ohio University, and now ranks as the team's biggest alumni supporter. After attending the Athens-based tournament in January, his excitement for the future of Ohio University's Forensics program has never been bigger.

"They are an incredible group of students," he said. "You can't help but get caught up in the excitement of what they are doing. I found them to be so polished, so poised, such wonderful ambassadors of Ohio University."

Cassese was equally impressed with West, who fills the endowed professorship he created. West competed on forensics teams for nine years and began his coaching career in 1988. This season marks his second at Ohio University.

According to Cassese, West is "the biggest Ohio University forensics cheerleader that I've seen in a long time.

"Every coach has added something, but Dan is so rigorous in his approach to the team, to getting them prepared," he said. "But underneath it all, he's got this razor-sharp focus on winning. He dreams big. Dan is focused on making OU the premier forensic program in the Midwest."

West, who believes his job is "to unlock the potential inside each student," has challenged the team members to perform their speeches 50 times to various audiences before competing in April.

"I told them the road to nationals is paved by 2,000 speeches," West said.

The caveat to all this success?

"We've got to fly high, or come home empty-handed," West reported.

The Ohio University Forensics Team is housed in the Scripps College's School of Communication Studies, but is open to all Ohio University students. The team competes six weekends each quarter, with travel expenses funded by the Scripps College.

To learn more about the team, please visit its Web site at www.coms.ohiou.edu/forensics.

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Media Contact: Scripps College of Communication External Relations Coordinator Erin Roberts, roberte1@ohio.edu

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