Feb 22, 2011
By Brooke Carpenter
The Speaking Bobcats, Ohio University's Forensics Team, has continued its successful ways this year after placing in the top five at nationals in April.
After winning 28 individual awards, including six state championship titles, this past weekend at the 2011 Ohio Forensic Association Varsity State Championship at Ohio State University, Head Coach Dan West couldn't be prouder of his team.
"This is the best year I have ever had in all my years of coaching at Ohio University," West said. "It is the best year I have had in my entire career."
West, who is the John. A Cassese Director of Forensics and is in his sixth year as coach, said he has never seen such a successful and hardworking team of students.
"I work really hard in instilling a strong work ethic in my students," West said. "Our motto is 'excellence takes sacrifice,' and these students realize that. They are practicing very hard, but all of their work is definitely paying off."
The students on the Forensics Team know what they are capable of doing and where their skills are capable of taking them in the future, West said. Last year's team recorded the program's highest finish in 30 years when it placed fourth at the annual National Forensics Association (NFA) tournament, which was held in Athens last spring. This was the first time Ohio has placed in the top five since 1980.
West credits the team's past and current successes to long hours of practice and team members' dedication to their speeches. He said like any competitive sports team, the team practices many hours each week and is always looking for ways to improve.
"The students go as far as practicing extra hours in order to perfect an accent for an interpretive speech, and working on gestures to enhance a performance," West said.
West sees the potential his team possesses and has set high standards this year.
The team has already qualified 35 students for 108 events at the national tournament, a feat rarely achieved this early in the season. Their goal is to win every tournament up until the final NFA showdown at Illinois State University, April 19-25. With their current winning streak fueling their motivation, the Speaking Bobcats are primed to make this a reality.
The annual NFA Tournament is an opportunity for accomplished and talented student speakers and debaters from more than 100 universities throughout the country to compete in a variety of academic competitions. The speech categories are numerous and include rhetorical criticism, persuasion, impromptu, after dinner, and extemporaneous competitions.
At the 2010 NFA Tournament, Ohio University student Dan Glaser won the Pentathlon championship, recognizing him the top speaker in the nation. Although Glaser has graduated, West believes there are numerous members of the team with the potential to receive such an award.
"[Ohio University] excels at Speech and Debate. It is something we do incredibly well," West said. "We have so many students who want to be a part of [Speech and Debate], and want to know more about the team. I have never seen a school so proud of the speech team like they are here."
West recognized that the Speaking Bobcats are a just one of the many outgrowths of success that come from the Ohio University Scripps School of Communications, but said his students are great examples of the University's excellence.
"The team represents the whole University," West said. "The students come from all majors and they truly show how our students work extremely hard at academic success. I am really proud to be a part of that."