Concordia Speech Team Places 17th in National Tournament

Standing l-r: Emily Liddell ’24; Dominic Meyers ’21: Leah Roberts ’21: Joshua Kramer ’24; Ellise Hogen ’24; Nicholas Dunn ’23; Claire Mohr, ’22 – Sitting l-r: Ta’mia Hedlin ’23; Josephine Núñez, ’21; Naarah Neumann ’24; Hailey Puppe, ’24; and Miah Sandvik, ’24 (not pictured: Madelynn Schumacher ’23)

For the second time in the past four years, Concordia placed in the top 20 teams in the nation with two students breaking into the quarterfinal rounds at the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament (AFA-NST).

Concordias 2021 national team consisted of three seniors, one junior, three sophomores, and five first-years. The students took 29 entries to the national tournament.

In a normal year, the team would have boarded a plane and traveled to the tournament location across the country. This year, students competed virtually alongside 67 other colleges and universities from across the United States via the competition platform Yaatly, streaming their performances from classrooms in the Olin Center on campus April 2-5.

Competition took place in 11 categories: Impromptu Speaking, Informative Speaking, Prose Interpretation, Dramatic Duo, Extemporaneous Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, Program Oral Interpretation, After Dinner Speaking, Communication Analysis, Drama Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation.

Placing in the top 20 this year is especially satisfying for several reasons,” said Dr. Najla Amundson, director of forensics. “It was a tough year for everyone competing in a virtual world where we were separated by a screen from our audiences – and in many cases – never saw their faces.”

Seniors Leah Roberts and Josephine Núñez both broke into quarterfinals. Roberts in Dramatic Interpretation, and Núñez in Dramatic Interpretation, Prose Interpretation, and Informative Speaking. This put both Roberts and Núñez as two of the top 24 competitors in a field of 114 in Dramatic Interpretation. Núñez placed among the top 24 competitors in a field of 126 in Informative Speeches and one of the top 24 competitors in a field of 137 Prose Interpretation pieces.

Joining Concordia colleges Speech team was like coming home,” Roberts said. “I have never in my life found a group of people that has made it so easy for me to be myself around. Being on this team has been, without a doubt, the greatest privilege of my life. I will constantly sing its praises.”

While the students had to virtually perform alone in classrooms in Olin, that didn’t stop them from finding time to create the team atmosphere that usually comes with a physical tournament setting. Miah Sandvik, a first-year on the team, was pleasantly surprised how well nationals went in this setting.

“The challenges of attending virtual tournaments meant that most of my time competing during the regular season had been spent alone in a room, only getting to share or celebrate with team members once the tournament was over,” Sandvik said. “At AFA-NST, however, I got to see so much more of the rest of the team. We ate together, played Uno between rounds, and even got to watch each other perform. The tournament became a chance to socialize, relax, and truly enjoy each other's company.”

Núñez is also grateful for her time on the team. She said, “When I am with the speech team, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. I am so thankful for my time with this team. I am proud to be a part of the excellency that is Concordia Speech and I can’t wait to see this program achieve becoming a top 10 speech team in the nation.” 

Amundson, in her fourth year as director of forensics, is very pleased with the team’s accomplishments.

“It was one of the largest national tournaments in the history of the AFA-NST and, with no divisions, we were competing against some huge programs,” Amundson added. “To finish 17th just demonstrates how strong our program is.”