Smothers wins national championship; seniors lead L&C speech to record setting nationals
Hope Smothers (’22) won the program’s first national title at the American Forensic Association’s National Speech Tournament, Aaron Lutz (’22) set a program record in individual sweepstakes, and Eden Kenney (’22) advanced three events to elimination rounds as Lewis & Clark’s super senior speakers powered the team to a sixth place overall national finish. The tournament was held April 1-4 at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the first in-person speech nationals since 2019.
Smothers won the national championship in Prose Interpretation, an event which requires students to select prose material of literary merit and develop that story through oral interpretation. Smothers, who finished fourth in the same event last year, focused on the growing body of literature composed during the pandemic. Performing the same piece six times to a total of twenty-one judges, she was judged to be the best in a field of 109 competitors. Smothers also finished in sixth place in Dramatic Interpretation and was a quarterfinalist in Duo Interpretation.
Lutz’ performances were notable due to the breadth of success across multiple events. Lutz, like Smothers, had two events in finals, finishing in fifth place in Extemporaneous Speaking and sixth place in Impromptu. Lutz also advanced to the semifinal round in Communication Analysis as well as quarterfinals in Informative Speaking and After Dinner Speaking. The sum of these performances led to a 12th place finish in Individual Sweepstakes, a record high placing for a Lewis & Clark competitor at the National Speech Tournament.
Kenney advanced three events to elimination rounds, earning a final round spot and sixth place national finish in Informative Speaking. Kenney also qualified for quarterfinals in both Communication Analysis and Duo Interpretation.
Director of Speech/Debate Joe Gantt said of these seniors, “What an incredible trio of seniors we have in speech. This class has been through so much; cancellation of national tournaments in 2020, virtual tournaments for most of the last two years. Yet, these three have been leaders of a growing program while still finding individual excellence themselves.
Hope is such an incredibly gifted performer, and her ability to tell a story through literature touches everyone who gets the opportunity to hear her. She is such an absolutely deserved national champion. Aaron, who has always been outstanding as a limited preparation speaker, showed the ability to excel in the public address genre. And Eden’s run to finals is stunning, especially in consideration of the fact that most of her speech career has been in virtual competition.”
Adding to the Lewis & Clark successes were Gavin Patchet (’23), who advanced to semifinals of Impromptu Speaking; Syl Knauss (’24), quarterfinalist in both Duo Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation; Catie McCarty (’24), quarterfinalist in Duo Interpretation; Grace Elkhal (’24), quarterfinalist in Program Oral Interpretation; and Ruby Guzman (’25), quarterfinalist in Dramatic Interpretation.
As a squad, Lewis & Clark soared to a sixth place finish in Overall Sweepstakes, competing against colleges and universities of all sizes. This represented a program record and only the second time that L&C has finished in the top ten. The previous record was eighth in 1978, the very first time that the National Speech Tournament (formerly known as the National Individual Events Tournament) was held.
Gantt said of the team award at the NST, “It is very special to have success of this type, particularly at this tournament. L&C’s own Jean Ward, former forensics coach and associate dean, was a part of the organizing committee that started this tournament nearly fifty years ago, and we have attended nearly forty installments over the years. I am thankful for the entire speech team, all of whom contributed to rising to heights at the NST previously believed unattainable.”
The speech team is next in action next week at the NFA Championship Tournament at Illinois State University, where they will be joined by L&C’s Lincoln-Douglas debaters as well. The British Parliamentary team will close their season this weekend at the University of Alaska - Anchorage.