Speech Team Performs Night Before Nationals

March 31, 2011

In annual Night Before Nationals events last weekend, the Bradley University Speech Team performed for attentive and excited audiences in the Mary Theater. Shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights featured topics ranging from aquatic ape theory to infanticide. 

The team uses Night Before Nationals every spring to prepare for two national forensic competitions while providing entertainment for the campus community. The four shows showcased 23 of the team's 30 members. Performing for supportive crowds on campus, without the pressure of judges in the room, gives the competitors an opportunity to polish their routines and work out any hiccups.

It is no secret that the Bradley Speech Team affords the university major bragging rights in the world of college forensics. Bradley has won 37 national titles, more than any other program of any kind in the nation.

This April, the team prepares to take on two more titles by reclaiming the American Forensic Association championship and the National Forensic Association title.

"The only weakness this year is that they're a young team," said Dan Smith, head coach of Bradley forensics. There are nine freshmen on the team this year. One of them is Kailee Watkins, a political science major from Winfield, Ill. "I'm excited and nervous," she said. "But I'm ready for a new experience."  Watkins will compete in five events at NFA, including dramatic interpretation, prose, poetry, duo interpretation and persuasion.

While the team has many fresh faces, there is also a large junior class and a handful of seniors, veterans who have already experienced competition on the national level.

"We say you have to go to one before you can win one," said Smith. He says nationals are different than preliminary competitions because instead of a small classroom with only the judges and a few others in the audience, students might be performing for 100 people.

"It is time consuming," said junior Camille Yameen, who has gone to each national competition since her freshman year. "It takes hours upon hours of preparation, but it's so much fun working together for a common goal."

The Bradley University Speech team competes annually in the AFA and NFA competitions. This year, 21 students will compete in the AFA contest held April 2-4 in Nebraska. The whole team will compete in the NFA contest held April 15-18 at Illinois State University.

Story by Sarah Garfinkel