Speech team wins first state title


Photo courtesy of The University of Akron speech and debate team

UA speech team poses for a photo after recieving awards last weekend at Capital University in Columbus.

By Natalie Orr, News Editor

Last weekend The University of Akron’s speech and debate team won its first state title since its rebirth in 2001 at the Ohio Forensics Association (OFA) state tournament in Columbus.

Led by head coach Mark Rittenour and graduate assistant Amanda Layman, the team competed on both Friday and Saturday at Capital University.

Placing in five individual categories and taking six places total, junior team member Abby Zerull won first in individual sweepstakes.

“I have never met a group of people who have worked so hard to achieve a goal and that are so passionate about the exchange of ideas,” Zerull said. “Our team spent hours preparing for this tournament, and clearly the hard work paid off. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Zerull took first place in extemporaneous speaking, second in persuasive speaking, second in after-dinner speaking, second in impromptu speaking, third in program oral interpretation, fourth in duo interpretation with partner Alyssa Gieseck, and second in duo interpretation with partner Maddie Cuckow.

Because she was among the top two speakers in persuasion, Zerull will travel to University of Nebraska Omaha in April to compete in the 141st Interstate Oratorical Association Contest, the nation’s oldest oratorical speech competition.

Junior team member Kelsey Jones took home five first-place awards: program oral interpretation, prose, after-dinner speaking, dramatic interpretation, and duo interpretation with partner Brad Keylor. She also won second place in poetry and fifth place in duo interpretation with her partner and sister Madison Jones.

The team took home the first-place title for debate sweepstakes as well, with parliamentary debate duo Natalie Orr and Nathan Hill winning first place and the team of Ashley Mikolay and Nicholas Golina winning second.

Individual debate awards went to Golina with first, Hill with second, Orr with third, and Mikolay with fifth. In Lincoln-Douglas debate Ramon Wise placed fourth overall.

Hill, a freshman, placed fourth in rhetorical criticism, fourth in impromptu, and third in individual sweepstakes.

This was the last state tournament for Alyssa Gieseck, a senior and three-year member of the team. She took home second place in rhetorical criticism, sixth place in after-dinner speaking, fifth place in persuasive speaking, and fourth place in duo interpretation with her partner Abby Zerull.

Among the several first-time competitors, freshman Andrew Tuffs placed seventh in persuasive speaking.

Sophomore Maddie Cuckow also brought home several titles, including seventh in program oral interpretation, sixth in prose, sixth in duo interpretation with Keylor, second in duo interpretation with Zerull, and second in dramatic interpretation.

The team will travel to Bowling Green State University for next weekend’s competition through Feb. 26- 27.