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Led by event champion Jeremy Bennett ’05, Lafayette Forensics Society took first place in Lincoln Douglas debate within a field of more than 25 schools at a forensics tournament hosted last weekend by Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. Some of the top schools and competitors in the nation participated in the tournament.

Both Bennett, a neuroscience major from Riverside, Pa., and Michael Lestingi ’04 of Centerville, Ohio, who is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and a bachelor of arts degree with majors in International Affairs and Russian and East European Studies, earned perfect scores in their preliminary rounds before advancing to the elimination stage. Lestingi finished as a quarterfinalist.

Bennett won all seven of his rounds to earn the Lincoln Douglas championship. In the final round, he defeated last year’s second-place finisher at the National Forensics Association National Tournament. His opponent had a perfect debate record at the Indiana tournament last weekend until meeting Bennett.

“Our team is superbly supported by Lafayette, who helps us get to difficult tourneys every year; we need that experience to develop technique and anticipate the arguments other competitors bring to us,” says Bennett. “We need different exposure every year and Lafayette does what it can to get it for us. (Debate) coach (Jon) Honiball is elite, pure and simple. On top of that, we have a great corps of students to bring wherever we go. When one competitor wins, he or she does it because of what the team knows as a whole.”

“We’ve won several tournaments, but this is the first in the Midwest,” says Honiball. “It’s a good sign as we gear up for nationals. I’m extremely proud of Jeremy. He took second at this tournament last year, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. We weren’t the biggest team there, but we didn’t need to be.”

The competition at Indiana is consistently stronger than that found in East Coast tournaments, notes Bennett. “It draws some great teams from the Midwest that we won’t see again until nationals,” he says. “I’ve always performed better out West. My personal style is better accepted there.”

Also competing in Lincoln Douglas debate for Lafayette were Benjamin Berlow ’06 of Palmerton, Pa.; Erik Heins ’05 of Center Moriches, N.Y; and Paul Kritzler ’05, a history major from Monkton, Md.

“Whatever we do, we do as a team,” says Lestingi. “Everyone is involved in the win. My teammates are always the best possible support I could have. Without them, my success would not be possible.”

The students were accompanied by Honiball and Scott Placke, director of forensics.

Forensics Society will compete again at Cornell University next weekend. Two weeks later, it will enter the Pennsylvania State Forensics Association’s annual championship at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

At the group’s last competition, Heins established himself as one of the nation’s best college competitors in impromptu speech at a major tournament hosted by University of Texas-Austin Jan. 11-12. Competing in a field of 36 schools, Heins made it to the semifinal round of 12 students in impromptu speech. He finished just one spot shy of reaching the finals.

Lafayette’s forensics team got off to a strong start this season as a group of nine first-year students earned the top three places in extemporaneous speech, scored the top two honors in impromptu speech, and won several other commendations in a 17-team field at the Bloomsburg Novice Tournament Sept. 28. The team went on to place third at the West Chester Rose Bowl Tournament in October.

Forensics Society scored its highest finish ever at the Pennsylvania State Individual Events Association Championships Feb. 16-17 last school year and continued its remarkable ascent with a second-place finish at the Collegiate Forensics Association Tournament March 2-3 in Ocean City, Md. Nine students competed in 17 speech events and eight debate events at the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament April 18-22 at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga.

Categorized in: Academic News