Something to talk about

Sophomore Jacoby Cochran earned the persuasive championship title and individual sweepstakes award at this year’s NFA tournament.

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April 19, 2011

Sophomore speech team member Jacoby Cochran went to the National Forensic Association Tournament last week with several national quarterfinalist and semifinalist accolades under his belt.  No small feats, for sure, but Cochran left the competition a cut above the rest, rolling a large suitcase filled with two giant trophies, and sporting the loftiest title in collegiate forensics: individual sweepstakes champion. 

Put another way, Cochran was the tournament’s most outstanding speaker. The NFA individual sweepstakes award goes to the top scorer competing in at least four events.

“After his win, I just kept thinking back to his audition. After the first sentence came out of his mouth I said, ‘We have to bring him to Bradley,’” said Dan Smith, director of forensics.

The four-day NFA tournament was hosted by Illinois State University in Bloomington, Ill. Cochran, who also earned the national title in the persuasion event with a speech nine months in the making, led Bradley’s forensics team to second place overall, with a score of 529 points. Perennial rival Western Kentucky University took first place with 614 points.

“We have a legacy that is unmatched, and I am so inspired by this community,” Cochran said. “Speech is a mixture of talent, hard work, and luck. I caught four days where I had all three of them at the same time.”

Earlier this month, Cochran and his teammates sought to defend their American Forensic Association national championship at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. Bradley was narrowly edged out of the No. 1 spot by Western Kentucky, which finished with 412 points. Runner-up Bradley posted an impressive 378.5 total points highlighted by several quarterfinals (top 24), semifinals (top 12), and finals (top 6) appearances.

Cecil Blutcher, who shined as a freshman at the AFA tournament last year, proved himself a powerhouse in his sophomore appearances. Blutcher and freshman Gabrielle Dillon were national finalists in the duo interpretation event and Blutcher took third place nationally in the program oral interpretation event.  Blutcher and Cochran both placed in the AFA individual sweepstakes, and Blutcher was a national semifinalist in after-dinner speaking, poetry interpretation, and prose interpretation.

“Before NFA, I told Cecil, ‘You set the standard. I’m just trying to live up to it,’’’ said Cochran, who downplayed the significance of winning such prestigious titles as an underclassman. “These messages deserve to be heard, regardless of what year you are and how long you’ve been doing it.”

The greater significance, according to Cochran, is the example his success and other team successes set for those who will follow in their footsteps.

“The coolest thing is, at NFA we had a freshman win a title. So for all of the freshmen that come in next year, when they hit that wall and think they can’t do it anymore, there’s your example of what you can be,” said Cochran, referencing Elle Pratt’s individual championship in dramatic interpretation.

If Pratt is an example for incoming freshmen, junior Blake Longfellow should be an inspiration for transfer students. Longfellow, in his first year on Bradley’s team, claimed the NFA championship in the informative event.

Cochran said he will return next year “humble and hungry,” and is confident the team will again clinch a national title.

“I told my team yesterday, I would trade these trophies in a heartbeat if it meant we could have won a team title,” Cochran said. “It’s not the trophies, it’s the journey of how far I’ve come and how far this team has come. The trophies are a referendum on us, not me.”