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Forensics Team Posts Season-Ending Victories

June 21, 2021 - 3 minute read

Forensics team posing in front of the BMC

CUI’s perennially-competitive forensics teams finished strong again, with the debate side winning the National Christian College Forensics Invitational (NCCFI) championship, and the speech team placing third in the President's Division III Team Sweepstakes at the National Forensics Association (NFA) Championship.

“Despite a very challenging year, our team really came together to support each other and to achieve successes competitively,” says Amanda OzakiLaughon ’15, Director of Forensics. “It was such an amazing celebration of the resiliency of our students’ spirits. That’s the tone that was struck this year.” 

The NCCFI win marked the debate crew’s fourth national championship at the National Christian College Forensics Association’s annual event. In it, like-minded Christian universities and colleges throughout the country compete against one another. 

Team captains Kaitlyn Gleeson ’21 and rising senior Sean Nowlan won the championship round as a duo. It is CUI’s second time winning the highest round at this tournament (also in 2011). The entire forensics season took place through video-conference, which added a host of hurdles, difficulties and discomforts. Gleeson competed from her CUI dorm room, and Sean from his family’s home in Sacramento. “The most difficult part of it was getting into a debate mindset, because normally we all travel to a tournament, stay together in same hotels, only talk about debate for an entire weekend and get in that mindset,” says Gleeson. “With this, we didn’t have that. I’d have to isolate myself in my room to keep myself mentally on track for the weekend.” 

This was Gleeson’s fourth year in forensics at CUI, and her eleventh year in forensics altogether. For three years she was partners with her older sister, and that duo ranked as high as #6 in the nation. 

They ended the year at a pinnacle and kept up momentum to the end.

“As a freshman, my coaches asked me what my goals were,” she says. “I wanted to win first place speaker at a tournament, win a national tournament, and end my debate career on a win.” All three of those things happened within a few weeks. 

“It was a great way to go out, and definitely a highlight of my college debate career,” Gleeson says. “I was incredibly thankful, and cried a little bit.” 

On the speech side, CUI won third place in CFA competing against universities such as Yale, Purdue, San Diego State, and California State University Fullerton — more than 64 schools all told. California State University Los Angeles took first place. CUI’s Damon Lawson ’21, Andrea Aldana ’21 and Rebekah Mehrley ’23 represented the speech team in a total of twelve events at the latter tournament. Ozaki-Laughon attributes much of speech’s strong performance in 2021 to new Director of Individual Events, Claire Crossman, whose work now supports Director of Debate Benji Lange ’19. 

“Claire’s fantastic coaching skills brought a nationally competitive edge to the speech team, and she used her network to bring national champions to the team as assistant coaches, giving individualized and round-winning attention to each performer,” Ozaki-Laughon says. “Benji and Claire did an amazing job this year. At times it was hard to keep everybody’s morale up, but they ended the year at a pinnacle and kept up momentum to the end.”

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