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WKU forensics team wins 8th AFA national speech title; Gilyard earns top award

The WKU forensics team won its eighth American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament championship, hosted this year by Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., over the April 4-6 weekend.

WKU sent 29 competitors with a total of 66 entries to the national tournament. Of the 66 total entries, 47 advanced to quarterfinal rounds, 31 advanced to the semifinal round and 14 events made it to the final rounds of competition.

WKU was crowned team sweepstakes champion with 581 points, while Bradley University placed second with 448.5 points and the University of Texas at Austin placed third with 382 points. Other top 10 schools included George Mason University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Illinois State University, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of Alabama, Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Northern Iowa. The AFA National Individual Events Tournament hosted 82 schools this year.

In addition to the team’s success, forensics team members captured three of the top 16 individual sweepstakes awards. Senior Nick Gilyard was named the top overall competitor at the tournament out of a field of more than 500 students. WKU senior Tyler Rife was named 11th overall, and junior Ray Roberts placed 16th overall.

WKU Director of Forensics Jace Lux attributed the team’s success to months of hard work. “The team was determined to win the national title this year, and they did exactly what they had to do to make sure that happened,” he said. “People ask me all the time why WKU has been as successful as it has over the last decade or so, and it’s a very simple answer: Our students and coaches work extremely hard. There’s just no substitute for hard work. Our students love WKU, and I know it makes them happy that they can contribute to the university in this way.”

Lux also noted the significance of the victory. “We are still relatively new to this tournament. The first time we went was in 2002, and we placed thirteenth in the nation. The following year we won our first national title, but this is easily the most points that WKU has ever scored at this tournament, surpassing our previous highest point total by nearly 100 points. It’s the second largest point total in the three-plus decades of the national tournament,” he said.

Gilyard’s individual victory is also a point of pride for the team as a whole, Lux said. “These students love and support each other and really are a family,” he said. “They were thrilled for Nick. Winning the overall individual sweepstakes award is extremely difficult. Nick is only the third individual champion from WKU, and the last time a WKU student was named the best overall competitor in the country was in 2007. His accomplishments are huge for all of us.”

The team is preparing for the final national tournament, the National Forensic Association National Speech and Debate Tournament, hosted in one week at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The AFA national tournament offers individual events such as dramatic interpretation of literature, limited preparation and public speaking. The NFA national tournament allows competitors to compete in debate as well as the individual events. Lux said that presents a new challenge. “We won the debate national championship last year, but took second in individual events at NFA We started this season with the goal of winning all of the national titles, so we’re partway there,” he said.

Earlier this spring, WKU won its 10th International Forensic Association championship and its 24th consecutive Kentucky Forensic Association championship.

Individual results from the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament are as follows:

  • Nick Gilyard, a senior from Miami Gardens, Fla., national champion in individual sweepstakes, national champion in duo interpretation (with Ray Roberts) second in poetry interpretation, third in informative speaking, sixth in persuasive speaking and quarterfinalist in after-dinner speaking.
  • Gabriella Devia-Allen, a senior from Davie, Fla., national champion in informative speaking and fourth in poetry interpretation.
  • Ray Roberts, a junior from Houston, Texas, national champion in duo interpretation (with Nick Gilyard), 16th in individual sweepstakes, semifinalist in dramatic interpretation, semifinalist in poetry interpretation and quarterfinalist in prose interpretation.
  • Lindsey White, a senior from St. Paul, Minn., third in programmed oral interpretation, fourth in dramatic interpretation and quarterfinalist in after-dinner speaking.
  • Lataya Williams, a sophomore from Falcon Heights, Minn., third in poetry interpretation, fifth in duo interpretation (with Darius Wilson) and semifinalist in programmed oral interpretation.
  • Darius Wilson, a junior from Blue Springs, Mo., third in duo interpretation (with Tyler Rife), fifth in duo interpretation (with Lataya Williams) and semifinalist poetry interpretation.
  • Tyler Rife, a senior from Dayton, Ohio, third in duo interpretation (with Darius Wilson), 11th in individual sweepstakes, semifinalist in poetry interpretation and quarterfinalist in prose interpretation.
  • Austin Groves, a junior from Blue Springs, Mo., fourth in prose interpretation, semifinalist in dramatic interpretation and semifinalist in duo interpretation (with Taylor Holcombe).
  • Elle Pratt, a senior from Fullerton, Calif., sixth in dramatic interpretation and semifinalist in duo interpretation (with John Reynolds).
  • Carolyn Evans, a freshman from Urbandale, Iowa, sixth in impromptu speaking and quarterfinalist in in extemporaneous speaking.
  • Janniqua Dawkins, a junior from Hollywood, Fla., semifinalist in persuasive speaking, semifinalist in communication analysis and quarterfinalist in informative speaking.
  • Haddy Badjie, a sophomore from Lewisville, Texas, semifinalist in informative speaking, quarterfinalist in persuasive speaking and quarterfinalist in poetry interpretation.
  • Emma Collins, a junior from Chicago, Ill., semifinalist in informative speaking and quarterfinalist in extemporaneous speaking.
  • Paige Settles, a sophomore from Floyds Knobs, Ind., semifinalist in impromptu speaking and quarterfinalist in extemporaneous speaking.
  • John Reynolds, a junior from Harlingen, Texas, semifinalist in duo interpretation (with Elle Pratt) and quarterfinalist in prose interpretation.
  • Kristina Medero, a junior from Davie, Fla., semifinalist in informative speaking.
  • Nefertiti Dukes, a junior from Miami Gardens, Fla., semifinalist in extemporaneous speaking.
  • Taylor Holcombe, a freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., semifinalist in duo interpretation (with Austin Groves).
  • Jamaque Newberry, a junior from Tamarac, Fla., semifinalist in programmed oral interpretation.
  • Tyler Prochazka, a junior from Newton, Kan., semifinalist in extemporaneous speaking.
  • John Corum, a junior from Auburn, quarterfinalist in extemporaneous speaking.
  • Richard Heyne, a senior from Sunrise, Fla., quarterfinalist in communication analysis.
  • Jasmine Jones, a sophomore from Elizabethtown, quarterfinalist in poetry interpretation.
  • Sebastian Orozco, a junior from El Paso, Texas, quarterfinalist in programmed oral interpretation.
  • Emma Wilczynski, a senior from Florence, quarterfinalist in after-dinner speaking.

More: Check out the WKU Forensics Facebook page.

Contact: Jace Lux, (270) 745-6340.

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