Forensics has a long-standing winning tradition; coaches, alumni credited for success

Members of UW-Eau Claire's forensics team pose with their trophies after winning the state tournament last weekend at UW-Stout.
Members of UW-Eau Claire’s forensics team pose with their trophies after winning the state tournament last weekend at UW-Stout.

Caitlyn Duley crafted her college search around schools with forensics programs. Her teammate, Elijah Freeman said collegiate forensics found him.

Despite different roads to the program, the two were both successful in helping UW-Eau Claire forensics continue its long streak as state champions last weekend when they competed at UW-Stout.

Freeman was the overall individual state champion and Duley took first in oratory, which landed her a speaking spot at the nation’s oldest forensics tournament in the country, the Interstate Oratory competition, which she will compete at in late April.

Despite their individual success, which will propel each of the communication students to national tournaments, they are each quick to credit their teammates, alumni of the program, and coaches Karen Morris and Kelly Jo Wright for their role in the accomplishments.

The reputation of UW-Eau Claire forensics among other teams around the country and display cases full of trophies in Hibbard Humanities Hall are proof of the program’s success, however, it was uncertain until recently how long of a winning streak the team had at the state tournament, Morris, director of forensics, said.

The UWEC Forensics Program is a nationally ranked forensic program representing UWEC at approximately twenty-seven regular season tournaments across the Midwest and three national tournaments annually.  UWEC Forensics continues their tradition of excellence as the reigning Wisconsin College Forensics State Champions and as a top 20 program at the American Forensics Association National Tournament and a top 10 program at the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament.  The program is funded by UWEC Student Activities and is supported and housed in the UWEC Department of Communication and Journalism.

Due to an old score sheet located by an opposing team’s coach the Blugolds now know for certain the streak as the best in the state is at least 31 years strong.

“It’s the tradition of it,” Morris said of her team’s success. “We want to do well because not only do we not want to let ourselves down but we don’t want to let alumni down.”

Mike Rindo,
 assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, has his time on the UW-Eau Claire forensics squad to thank not only for skills applicable to his professional life, but also for meeting his wife, he said with a smile.

Rindo, who competed for the Blugolds for four years, said Grace Walsh in part crafted the program’s reputation of greatness. Walsh coached debate and speech at UW-Eau Claire for 36 years, beginning in the 1950s and is now the namesake of the Blugolds’ home tournament.

“She was a legend,” Rindo said of his former coach.

Nick Miller, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2010 with a degree in Public Relations, said his time on the forensics team helped prepare him professionally.

“Confidence. First and foremost that’s what forensics gave me,” Miller said.

Miller, who now works as general manager of LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Chicago, said what sets Eau Claire’s program apart from the pack is the people.

“It’s really second to none. Our coaches develop us as a person first and a speaker second,” he said. “They are far more in tune with turning out good people than just winning.”

Freeman echoed Miller’s words about Morris and Wright, despite the two never being on the team at the same time.

“They uphold the tradition, that’s them,” Freeman said. “They are what makes the team.”

Were you a part of UW-Eau Claire forensics? What was the most memorable part?


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