Speech and debate takes second place two days straight in New York City tournament

By Natalie Orr, Writer

Last weekend The University of Akron’s nationally-ranked speech and debate team traveled to New York City to compete in a two-day tournament, “The Off-Broadway Swing,”  hosted in Long Island at Suffolk County Community College.

The first day of the trip was spent exploring New York City and sightseeing many landmarks such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral,  the Rockefeller Center, and Times Square. The time spent in New York City served as a bonding experience for both new and veteran members to get acclimated to their teammates.

The team also had an encounter with former President George W. Bush while he was exiting the Plaza Hotel and being escorted away.

The next two days consisted of competition starting at 9:00 am and ending around 7:00 p.m. in the evening; the team was able to take home several trophies and titles.

The first day, junior Abby Zerull placed second in extemporaneous speaking, an event that requires 30 minutes of preparation after receiving a question about domestic or foreign policy issues, followed by a seven-minute speech; and new member Nicholas Golina, a freshman, won fourth in that category as well. Zerull also placed first in her two other categories, after-dinner speaking and persuasive speaking.

Nathan Hill, also a freshman and new speech member, took home the second-place trophy in impromptu speaking, an event that gives the speaker one and a half minutes to prepare a five-and-a-half minute speech based on a quotation.

In prose, an interpretation event that focuses on a character and story, junior returning-member Kelsey Jones placed second; sophomore and new team member Maddie Cuckow placed fifth. Alyssa Gieseck, returning senior member, placed second in communication analysis.

The team placed second in sweepstakes, and Zerull placed second overall as an individual.

The second day of competition was equally successful, with the team again taking second overall out of the 16 competing schools, third place overall in parliamentary debate, and acquiring several other individual titles. Most notably, Abby Zerull took home the first place trophy for individual sweepstakes, coming back even stronger the second day as the weekend’s top overall speaker.  

“Going to this tournament, we were given the opportunity to further our knowledge about difficult social issues and relevant topics that not everyone may be educated about,” Zerull said about the trip and competition. “I personally enjoy being able to educate people about topics I am passionate about — for example, adoption culture and the misconceptions about it, which I discuss in one of my speeches.”

Zerull, like many of her teammates, is very passionate about speech and debate and wants to become the graduate assistant coach for the team during graduate school.

New member Brad Keylor, freshman, explained the events leading up to his joining of the team.

“When I first came to [UA], I didn’t know which organization I wanted to join. Then I found the speech and debate team — a second home for me with students who are so closely involved and genuinely care for each other,” Keylor said. “As for competing, there are many similarities to high school speech and debate, however…there are new categories and subtle changes in interpretation events. At first I was not fond of it, but after learning why it is, I grew to love it.”

With the help of Coach Mark Rittenour, senior college lecturer in the School of Communication; and Amanda Layman, graduate assistant coach, the weekend was a complete success.