Truman Forensics Team Finishes Season With Best Ever Showing at Nationals

The Truman speech and debate team returned from the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament last week with the best finish in the history of the program. Truman finished second in Lincoln-Douglas debate sweepstakes and fifth in individual events sweepstakes in Division II.
The national championship took place at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., April 15-18. The tournament brought together 93 individual event and 25 debate schools from across the nation.

The Lincoln-Douglas team was comprised of two seniors and four freshmen. It was freshman phenom Myra Milam who advanced to the quarterfinal round, placing her in the top eight debaters in the nation. No Truman competitor in Lincoln-Douglas debate has ever advanced further than the quarterfinal round.

When reflecting on her first collegiate national championship, Milam commented, “You never know what those around you are capable of until you are all thrown into something as difficult and demanding as nationals. Watching the team come together and work so hard was inspiring. It made me glad to be a part of this team.”

Senior Sarah Backhaus also advanced into elimination rounds in Lincoln-Douglas debate, making it to the octofinal round. This placed her in the top 16 of the 84 competitors. Both Milam and Backhaus were also awarded for their eloquent speaking style with speaker awards, winning third place and seventh place, respectively.

These awards contributed to the team’s second place finish in Lincoln-Douglas debate sweepstakes.  This is the highest that Truman has ever placed, and it was a team effort. Every time a debater wins a preliminary or elimination round, points are added to the team’s total. It takes the whole team doing consistently well in order to win a sweepstakes trophy. Previously, the team’s best finish was fourth place.

In individual events, sophomore Jessica Petrie finished second place in both Impromptu Speaking and Editorial Impromptu Speaking. With 250 competitors, Impromptu Speaking had the most entries at the championship. Editorial Impromptu, a new experimental event, only let an elite group participate—80 of the nation’s finest speakers.

In Truman’s history, only one other person has reached second place, which was in 2001 when  freshman Ian Sammuel achieved the feat in After Dinner Speaking. No Truman student has accomplished this twice in the same national championship competition.

Other awards included junior Andrew Grojean’s quarterfinalist finish in Persuasive Speaking. This put him in the top 24 of 200 speakers. These speakers hailed from all across the nation and had to qualify to attend the championship tournament.

Petrie and Grojean’s awards contributed to the fifth place Individual Events Team Sweepstakes award, but again, it was a team effort. There were six students competing in individual events for Truman—three freshmen, two sophomores and one junior. Last year, Truman took three individual events competitors to the National Championship and, due to the small size of the entry, were placed in the small schools division where they took first of 46 similarly sized schools.

This year, the team was moved up one division to the President’s Division II. This consisted of teams that had 15-22 event entries. With 17 event entries, Truman just barely made the cut-off point. Yet, the team managed to place fifth out of the 20 schools in this division—including schools such as the University of Michigan and Creighton University.

“We’ve always been small in size but concentrated in talent,” said Kristi Scholten, director of Truman’s speech and debate team. “We have so much youth on this team and they are already impressing people. Mark my words: This is the team to watch in the next few years.”

Anyone interested in more information about the Truman speech and debate team can contact Scholten at