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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Speech and debate ties record at nationals

The Forensics team was assisted by alumni when preparing for this year’s national competition. (Photo courtesy of Natalia Ferruggia ’26)

The Lafayette Forensics team tied their record for most breaks out of preliminary rounds in a single year at the 2024 national tournament in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Throughout their week at nationals, each team member competed in multiple categories, including persuasion, program oral interpretation, extemporaneous speaking, poetry, prose, duo and dramatic interpretation.

Jordan Shaibani ’24, Natalia Ferruggia ’26, Camsey Noonan ’26 and Ben Risley ‘26 earned a place in octafinals, which is the top 48 speakers in a specific event, in at least one event each. Additionally, Shaibani earned a place in the quarterfinals in After Dinner Speaking, being in the top 24 in the country for this event.

William Gutiérrez ’27 won the novice final round of extemporaneous speaking, a round dedicated to the top novices in this event who did not break into the octafinal round. This event requires participants to choose from one of three political or economic questions before receiving 30 minutes to prepare for a seven-minute speech. Gutiérrez chose to tackle the question, “What are the chances of Jacob Zuma winning the 2025 South African Presidential election?”

To successfully answer such a question, Gutiérrez asserted that participants need to have a broad knowledge of both domestic politics and international politics.

“I read a lot of news,” Gutiérrez said. “The more you know the better it is because you just don’t know what the questions are going to be about until you actually go.”

Nationals also provide students with an accepting and inclusive space to talk about subjects of social importance.

“I think that the speech community as a whole is incredibly accepting and diverse,” Noonan said. “It’s incredibly accepting of people like me who are gender non-conforming, to people of color, and it’s incredibly open to having difficult conversations. I mean I did an entire speech about my vagina and it got to an out-round at nationals. The fact that enough judges went, ‘This is a valid topic that needs to be talked about,’ is really valuable.”

This year the team had support from recent alumni who took the time to help coach current students and judge for the team at tournaments. This alumni group comprised of Saeed Malami ’20, Scott Kamen ’21 and Kelly Mwaamba ’22.

“We got a lot of alumni coaching this year, which is really, really cool and really, really amazing,” said Ferruggia. “One of our alums who graduated a couple years ago coached my prose piece at the end of the year, and I almost broke [into octafinals] with that.”

“I wouldn’t have been close unless I got the opportunity to work with her,” she continued.

With a successful end to this season, the speech and debate team looks forward to preparing for next year. Freshmen and sophomores make up the majority of the team and they hope to continue to hone their skills for next year’s tournaments.

Many members of the team are already brainstorming new speech ideas and are looking forward to spending their summer months writing new speeches.

“We’ve got a lot of hope for the future,” Gutiérrez said.

Assistant Culture Editor Natalia Ferruggia ’26 and William Gutiérrez ’27, who is acting as assistant culture editor, did not contribute writing or reporting.

A correction was made on May 3, 2024: A previous version of this article stated that William Gutiérrez placed in the octafinal round of the competition. He did not.

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Paige Mathieu
Paige Mathieu, Staff Culture Writer

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