By BJ Pickard
As fall semester classes began back in September, Director of Forensics Karen Morris knew it would be a big year for UW-Eau Claire Forensics. She returned with six experienced seniors and her team had grown to 25 active competitors, the largest UWEC team by far in recent memory. In April 2010, UW-Eau hosted the prestigious American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) for the first time since 1995. But as Morris and Assistant Director of Forensics, Kelly Jo Wright would remind their students, the road to AFA-NIET was a marathon – not a sprint – and there was much work to be done.
So they went to work. After a month of writing, rewriting, cutting and memorizing pieces, the team traveled to Illinois for the first Mid American Forensics League tournaments of the year. October featured several weekends of quality competition, but the Blugolds rose to the occasion, taking home trophies at each tournament. Over Halloween, Morris, Wright and five seniors flew to Harrisonburg, Va. to co-host the “Match Made in Heaven” tournament with James Madison University, a swing that will now become an annual event with the site switching between Eau Claire and James Madison each year. In November, the team traveled to Peoria, Ill. for the 62nd annual L.E. Norton Invitational hosted by Bradley University. Breaking eleven events to out-rounds, Eau Claire placed seventh out of 38 teams.
In December, the team split in two, with mostly underclassmen heading to UW-Stout for the Nicolai Invitational while upperclassmen traveled to the University of Nebraska-Kearney for the Outer Limits Swing. The Stout group captured four first place finishes, while the Nebraska crew won five events the first day and another two the second.
To begin the second semester, the team took six upperclassmen to the University of Texas for the annual “Hell Froze Over” swing in January. For the first time in school history, the team took home a trophy, placing fifth out of 40 schools. The team took two weeks in February to prepare for April’s AFA-NIET by hosting the annual High School tournament and Grace Walsh Individual Events Tournament (GWIET). Because Eau Claire hosts this year’s AFA-NIET, the GWIET became the national warm-up tournament. Twenty-three teams drove or flew into Eau Claire for the annual Valentine’s Day tournament, which raised more than $500 for the Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire, the highest amount ever collected for the charity at the tournament.
With the season winding down, and seniors through freshmen consistently contributing, the team looked for its 18th consecutive Wisconsin state championship, which they earned when UW-Eau Claire hosted the 32nd Annual AFA-NIET on April 1-4, 2010. The event featured some of the finest student competitors from more than 100 schools from across the nation. Blugold Forensics also took sixteenth place in the nation, the highest place they’ve taken in four years.
Following the AFA-NIET, the National Forensics Association (NFA) tournament was held in late April at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, with the team taking eighth place in the nation. The Interstate Oratory Contest, the oldest competitive speech tournament in the United States, will be held the last weekend in April at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.
Pickard is a senior public relations major set to graduate this spring. He has competed in Blugold Forensics for the last four years as a varsity competitor.