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The Lafayette Forensics Team won an historic victory Saturday, Nov. 3, defeating 10 other teams to win the St. Anselm College Jack Lynch Tournament in Manchester, N.H.

The win surpassed Lafayette’s previous best finish at a forensics tournament, established last month in a third-place showing among a 19-team field at the West Chester University Rose Bowl Tournament.

The team was led by Rachel Korpanty ’04 of Summerville, S.C., whose superior performances earned her first place in three individual events: after-dinner speaking, program oral interpretation, and prose reading. Korpanty also took third place in poetry reading and was named the second best “trithon” speaker, an award given to the top competitors who enter three or more events in at least two of four types: debate, full preparation, interpretation, and limited preparation.

Korpanty turned in a spectacular overall performance, said Scott Placke, individual events coach. “This was the first weekend that she took the prose out,” he explained. “She had not competed with the material before, and to take first place against people who probably were much more familiar with their material is a pretty big deal. It’s just an amazing feat for someone to break into four final rounds, period, let alone win first place in three categories.”

The top trithon competitor was Michael Lestingi ’04 of Tallmadge, Ohio, who won first place in impromptu speaking, made the semi-finals in Lincoln-Douglas debate, and finished sixth in prose reading. Lestingi, who intends to major in mechanical engineering, had the third-best score in the preliminary round of Lincoln-Douglas debate. He fared very well in a debate field that included the team that had last year’s individual national champion, said Placke. Many of the top debate schools in the country participated in the St. Anselm tournament.

Erik Heins ’05 of Center Moriches, N.Y., took second place in impromptu speaking and also competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Impromptu speaking traditionally is the biggest individual event category, according to Placke. With no separate divisions for novice and varsity competitors at the tournament, Heins bested a number of students with much more experience, considering he just started competing this fall.

“For him to be more than holding his own against varsity competitors is impressive,” said Placke. “He’s been working very hard and it’s great to see a person new to the team doing so well. It may seem strange, but practice is probably more important for impromptu speaking than for any other event. He’s placed in four of the five tournaments we’ve competed in this year, which is pretty amazing. I’m very happy with that.”

A number of other team members contributed Saturday. Jennifer Rusak ’04, an intended neuroscience major from Ashley, Pa., won the persuasive speech event and also competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Devan Theiler ’04 of Bridgewater, N.J., took third place in persuasive speech. Amy Carson ’02, a psychology major from Pennington, N.J., won fourth place in prose reading and also competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Jeremy Bennett ’05, an intended neuroscience major from Riverside, Pa., made the field of 16 in Lincoln-Douglas debate, earning the top score in the preliminary rounds. David Gross ‘02, an English major from Willow Grove, Pa., competed in prose reading and Alexander Sarris ’04, a government and law major from Northford, Conn., participated in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

“The kind of success we are enjoying this year is a tribute to the school’s dedication to establishing a first-rate forensics program for an elite undergraduate college,” said Bruce Murphy, director of forensics and Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights. “To accomplish as much as we have in so short a time and to do so with such success is a credit to both our coaches and our student competitors. We’re still a very young squad.

“As we continue to develop through our experience on the national circuit, I greatly look forward to seeing what kind of future success we will enjoy. But more important than all of these awards, the experiences our competitors have at these tournaments will help them develop the kinds of communication skills that will serve them well after graduation,” Murphy said.

“I’m still a little bit stunned,” added Placke. “There were some schools that did very well on the debate side or individual events side. We were the only team that excelled in both.”

Placke and Jon Honiball, Lincoln-Douglas debate coach, accompanied the team along with two additional judges hired by Lafayette.

Next weekend, the Forensics Team will compete in the Bloomsburg University Mad Hatter Tournament.

Previous 2001-02 Reports:

Jennifer Rusak ’04 and Michael Lestingi ’04 Pace Forensics Team at Shepherd College Tournament

Tournaments at West Chester University, Bloomsburg University, and Towson University

Categorized in: Academic News