Forensics Team Wins Missouri Debate Champion


For the second year in a row, Truman’s forensic union has earned Missouri’s Harold Lawson Debate Championship.

The team competed Feb. 16 and 17 at the Missouri Association of Forensic Activities championship tournament, hosted this year on Truman’s campus. In addition to winning the open debate division of the tournament, the team placed third in the Bob Derryberry Overall Sweepstakes and a number of other individual titles and state championships.

In individual events, sophomore Austin Sopko reached finals in four of his six events. He would go on to place sixth in poetry interpretation, fifth in after dinner speaking, fourth in oratory and third in dramatic interpretation. Additionally, Sopko’s ranking in after dinner speaking qualified the event to the national tournament, giving him six national qualifications, the highest number of speech qualifications in Truman forensics’ recent history. Sophomore Rebecca Walker also advanced to the oratory final, where she placed seventh. First-year Travis Stahlman took his informative speaking to the final round, where he placed fifth and earned his first national qualification. First-year Maguire Radosevic was next out of finals in extemporaneous speaking, earning him a top novice award. Finally, first-year Audrey Baker was awarded top novice in dramatic interpretation and placed sixth in program of oral interpretation, which makes for her fourth national qualification. Baker also placed second and earned top novice oratory.
Baker’s second place in oratory qualifies her to go to the Interstate Oratorical Association tournament in April. This is the oldest oratorical association in the nation, dating back to 1874, and the speeches of attendees will be published in the annual collection of “Winning Orations.” Only the top two students in oratory for each state are eligible for the tournament, and Baker faced stiff competition to earn her place, joining an elite group of speakers from around the nation.
Truman forensics competed in two categories of debate, parliamentary debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate. In the novice division of parliamentary debate, first-year Riley Dawkins was named sixth best speaker in the division. First-year Cami Smith placed third and fellow first-year Eric Martin placed first, making him the state champion speaker in novice parliamentary debate. Additionally, Smith and partner Peyton Gilbert were named the state champions in novice parliamentary debate. This is the sixth consecutive state championship for Truman in this event.
In the open division of parliamentary debate, three pairs of debaters made it to elimination rounds. Senior Kelsey Barnes and junior Tyler Behymer were named quarterfinalists, joined by sophomore Caleb Daniels and first-year Radosevic. Senior Connor Stewart and junior Johnathan Christy advanced to the finals, where they won the tournament and the state championship in the open division of parliamentary debate. This is the second and third state championship in this event for Stewart and Christy, respectively, each having won in the past with different partners. Additionally, Radosevic was named sixth best speaker in the state, Stewart was named fifth and Barnes was named third. Christy was named the state champion speaker in open parliamentary debate.
In Lincoln-Douglas debate, Eric Martin placed second in the novice division and was named fourth best speaker in the state in novice LD debate. In open LD debate, Truman debaters took up five of the six top speaker awards. Smith was named sixth speaker, Radosevic fifth speaker, Christy fourth, Behymer third and Daniels took home the state championship speaker award in open Lincoln-Douglas debate. Five out of nine LD debaters advanced to elimination rounds: Smith, Radosevic, Christy, Behymer and Stewart. Based on preliminary round seeding, Radosevic and Christy advanced to semi-finalists over Smith and Stewart, respectively. Christy and Radosevic both ended the tournament as semifinalists. Behymer, however, advanced to the finals where he defeated Missouri State’s Parker Hopkins in a hard-fought final round, making him the tournament and Missouri State Champion in Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Participation in the forensics program is open to any Truman student in good standing, regardless of prior speech and debate experience.  For more information on how to get involved, visit, contact Christopher Outzen, director of individual events, or Craig Hennigan, assistant director of forensics.