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Led by Geoffrey Gresh, a sophomore from Lowell, Mass., the Lafayette Forensics Society placed sixth in the Pennsylvania State Individual Events Association tournament Feb. 18 and 19 at Grove City College.

Gresh placed fifth overall in impromptu speaking, which requires a competitor to plan and deliver in no more than seven minutes a speech on a quotation revealed at the time of the competition. This showing qualified Gresh to participate in the National Forensics Association (NFA) national championship tournament in April.

“Geoff’s performance in the preliminary rounds was so spectacular that he qualified for the finals despite a judging error in one round that saddled him incorrectly with a result which was in fact earned by another competitor,” says Bruce Allen Murphy, Lafayette’s director of forensics and Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights. “His fifth-place finish is very significant because several of the other finalists were among the best in the nation.”

Gresh joined first-year student Brandt Siegel of Marysville, Ohio, as a qualifier for the NFA national tournament in impromptu speaking. Siegel qualified in a December tournament at Bridgewater College in Virginia. At Grove City, Siegel narrowly missed qualifying for the finals in impromptu speaking. In the persuasive speaking event, in which competitors compose a 10-minute speech designed to move listeners to action, Siegel took first place in one preliminary round.

Gresh and first-year students Kenya Flash of Coopersburg, Pa., and Emily Murphy of Center Valley, Pa., performed well in dramatic events, contributing to the team’s overall sixth-place finish. Dramatic events are 10-minute interpretations of prose (fiction or non-fiction) or poetry pieces, performed by individuals or pairs (the latter called “dramatic duo”). Murphy took an individual preliminary round first place ballot in prose. Flash scored very high in several preliminary rounds of poetry and presented two dramatic duo pieces, one each with Gresh and Murphy.

“With one of the smallest teams in the tournament, because of the unavailability of several other team members, Lafayette overcome very formidable odds to place sixth. Three freshmen and a sophomore participated in nine events against the best forensics competitors and debaters in the state,” says Bruce Murphy. “Some teams brought as many as 15 competitors, some of whom participated in eight individual events. This meant that some opposing team members were competing in nearly as many events as our entire team.

“So each competitor in each event had to count for Lafayette, and they did,” Murphy continues. “Our opponents were aware of the brief history of the team, which was begun just a little over a year ago, and appreciative of the members’ gallant effort. They gave the team a huge round of applause when the finish was announced.”

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