Truman Speech and Debate Team Wins Back-to-Back State Championships

Truman’s speech and debate team defended its title as Overall Team State Champions, winning the title for the second year in a row.
The 2011 Missouri Association of Forensic Activities State Championship took place Feb. 18-19 at Evangel University.

The debaters won four state champion titles, as well as numerous other awards, to earn the team second place in debate sweepstakes.

Senior Sarah Backhaus and freshman Myra Milam shared the state champion title in Lincoln-Douglas debate at the end of the final round. Backhaus also won the state champion speaking award in both Lincoln-Douglas and Parliamentary debate. Milam took the fourth place speaking award as well as the novice state champion speaking award in Lincoln-Douglas.

“Winning the state championship as a freshman is more than I ever could have hoped for,” Milam said. “I go to every tournament just hoping to learn more and to try to improve my skills [in debate], but making it to the final round with Sarah was truly an honor.”

Senior Dylan Clark took home a second place speaking award in Parliamentary debate. Clark and Backhaus advanced to quarterfinals in Lincoln-Douglas and also advanced to the quarterfinals of Parliamentary debate along with Milam and sophomore Jessica Petrie.

The individual events competitors won 16 awards—including two state champion titles—to earn the team third place in individual events sweepstakes. Petrie won the state championship in both extemporaneous speaking and informative speaking. She also took fourth place in oratory and sixth place in impromptu speaking.

Junior Andrew Grojean won second place in impromptu speaking and sixth place in oratory. Freshman A.J. Taula brought home second place in poetry interpretation, as well as third place in dramatic interpretation and the top novice award in both categories.

The freshman team of Taula and Arielle Long-Seabra took fourth place and the top novice award in dramatic duo. Long-Seabra also took fifth in prose interpretation, while freshman Sara Perkins took sixth place in extemporaneous speaking. 

“We are by no means the largest team—there are other programs in the state that have more debaters and speech competitors,” Kristi Scholten, director of forensics, said. “However, we proved this weekend that we have the most concentrated talent as well as a large number of promising first-year competitors.”

The team is now preparing for the National Championship Tournament in April. 

For questions about the team, contact Scholten at

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