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Forensics team discovers state championship reign is 31 years

As the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire forensics team headed to UW-Stout to compete in the Wisconsin Collegiate Forensics Association State Tournament Feb. 20 and 21, they were hoping to secure the university's 23rd consecutive state championship win.

That did not happen, however. Instead, the team went home with UW-Eau Claire's 31st consecutive state championship. 

That's right, 31st. 

It was previously accepted that UW-Eau Claire had won the state tournament 22 years in a row, taking second place to UW-Madison in 1983, but no confirmation or denial could be made of that information — until now.  

UW-Eau Claire forensics coach Karen Morris explained that after many conversations with alumni over the past few months and discovering a mix-up in the results sheet from the 1983 state tournament, it was finally concluded that UW-Eau Claire had taken first that year, making the team state champions for more than three decades.

In fact, Morris said, UW-Eau Claire's reign may span even further than 31 years, as state tournament records from before 1980 are not available.  

No matter the duration of their reign as state champions, UW-Eau Claire's forensics team has undeniably been continuously excellent. UW-Eau Claire took first place in 10 of the 11 events at this year's state tournament. For a full list of tournament results, visit the forensic team's website

Also this year, in addition to the state championship, team members attained both first and second places in the oratory category, affirming their positions as Wisconsin representatives to compete in the Interstate Oratory Contest in April. The oldest forensics tournament in existence, the IOC will be hosted by Berry College in Rome, Georgia. The student representatives from UW-Eau Claire are senior Caitlyn Duley, St. Michael, Minnesota, first-place winner, and senior Sarah Doege, St. Charles, Illinois, second-place winner.

Duley said she credits the team's closeness as well as the dedication of their coaches, both Morris and Kelly Jo Wright, for the group's continuous success.  

"We're a tight-knit group, and we want to see our teammates succeed just as much as we ourselves want to succeed," Duley said. "I find myself getting just as excited when a teammate wins an event as when I win."

Duley also took home first place in communication analysis and fifth place in the individual sweepstakes.

Elijah Freeman, a junior from Ladysmith, earned five trophies at the state tournament, including first place in both after-dinner speaking and impromptu speaking as well as first place in the individual sweepstakes.

"My coaches have a tremendous ability to get the best out of us, and they have taught me everything I know," Freeman said. "Also, I have a fantastic group of teammates who work hard and are committed to their craft and to their speeches. You add that great coaching to the dedication of the students and get a winning combination." 

Junior Jake Wrasse, Durand, also placed between first and third in five events, including first place in extemporaneous speaking and third in the individual sweepstakes. Wrasse said that the forensics team is what made him decide to attend UW-Eau Claire.

"I only applied to one university, and I chose UW-Eau Claire because of the experiences I'd had with its forensics team as a high school student and my desire to compete at a collegiate level," Wrasse said. "If it weren't for the UW-Eau Claire forensics team, I would have never ended up at this university and experienced everything it has to offer." 

For more information on the UW-Eau Claire forensics team, visit its website or contact Karen Morris at morriskr@uwec.edu or 715-836-3305.  

Photo caption: Front row (from left): Dee Evans, Tennisha Sonsalla, Taylor Turben, Elijah Freeman, Caitlyn Duley, Heidi Feyereisen, Sarah Doege. Back row (from left): Ben Thompson Isaac, Jake Wrasse, Jake Stendahl, Alex Brown, Sydney Tupy.