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The Speaking Bearcats forensics team finished their season this month, claiming numerous awards, including one team and two individual national championships at the Public Communication Speech and Debate League National Tournament. (Submitted photo)

The Speaking Bearcats forensics team finished their season this month, claiming numerous awards, including one team and two individual national championships at the Public Communication Speech and Debate League National Tournament. (Submitted photo)

April 27, 2018

Speaking Bearcats complete season with three more national titles


The Northwest Missouri State University forensics team, known as the Speaking Bearcats, finished its 2017-18 season April 7-8 by hosting the Public Communication Speech and Debate League (PCSDL) National Tournament and winning three more national titles at the event.

The team won the national championship in Division I Speech Sweepstakes while Hailey Vernon won an individual championship in audition monologue and Bryana Jones won the national title in Pecha Kucha.

In total, the team won three sweepstakes awards and 25 individual awards at the tournament. The Speaking Bearcats are now winners of 30 team and individual national titles since 2009.

“This team did an outstanding job,” Northwest Director of Forensics Brian Swafford, who also was the tournament director, said. “The championships are outstanding, but I am equally impressed with all the other award winners. We had five national runner-ups and six third-place finishes. These results tell me this young team is going to be really, really good in the coming years.”

Individual results for the Speaking Bearcats at the PCSDL are listed below:

  • Natalie Cote (freshman, emergency disaster management, Lawrence, Kansas): second place, research paper; third place, great speeches; fifth place, duo improv acting, with Baylynd Porter.
  • Gavin Hopkins (junior, speech and theatre education, Gallatin, Missouri): third place, duo improv acting, with Alexander Whittington; fifth place, audition monologue; sixth place, table topics.
  • Bryana Jones (freshman, organizational communication, Raytown, Missouri): national champion, Pecha Kucha; second place, public narrative; second place, table topics; second place, humorous political commentary; third place, individual sweepstakes; fourth place, great speeches; sixth place, duo improv acting, with Clarissa Lenger.
  • Clarissa Lenger (freshman, special education, Liberty, Missouri): second place, sports communication; fifth place, table topics; sixth place, duo improv acting, with Bryana Jones.
  • Baylynd Porter (sophomore, history, Ozark, Missouri): second place, slam poetry; fourth place, public narrative; fifth Place, duo improv acting, with Natalie Cote.
  • Hailey Vernon (junior, speech and theatre education, Omaha, Nebraska): national champion, audition monologue; third place, public narrative; fourth place, slam poetry; sixth place, individual sweepstakes.
  • Alexander Whittington (freshman, speech and theatre education, Pleasant Hill, Missouri): third place, slam poetry; third place, audition monologue; third place, duo improv acting, with Gavin Hopkins; fifth place, individual sweepstakes; fifth place, interviewing.

The Speaking Bearcats also performed well at the National Speech Championship March 24-25 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cote was a semifinalist in communication analysis and a novice exhibition finalist in prose and informative speaking, and Porter was a novice exhibition finalist in poetry and informative speaking.

The team traveled to the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament March 14-17 at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Speaking Bearcats claimed four awards at the tournament, which drew more than 80 teams, making it one of the largest speech and debate national tournaments ever recorded. Cote was a semifinalist in communication analysis; Hopkins finished fourth in congress; and Jones was an octofinalist in impromptu speaking and claimed an excellent award in persuasion.

Unlike recent years when Northwest competed at the national tournament with an experienced team, Swafford, who served as the assistant tournament director, noted the Speaking Bearcats traveled this year with only first-year competitors.

“It would be easy to say this was a learning year, but the team wasn’t willing to settle for moral victories,” Swafford said. “I’m really proud of how hard these students worked this year. When you graduate such a successful class last year and are largely starting over, it would be easy to phone it in for the year. This new group of students refused to settle for anything less than their best efforts. They represent the winning culture we have established at Northwest.”


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468