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Speech team wins its 42nd national championship

Sophomore Joshua Beckles embraces a student at the speech team’s welcome back celebration after winning the American Forensic Association national tournament. Photo by William Craine.

The Bradley University Speech Team returned to the Hilltop as national champions on Monday. The team won the American Forensics Association national tournament this past weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Greg Huber, vice president of the team, said the team knew what they were capable of, but went in not knowing what would happen.

“We didn’t know if we were going to do it,” Huber said. “Sometimes, things just don’t shake out. It’s a subjective activity, so you never know going in what the judges are going to want.”

Huber also reflected on the support the team has received with a welcome party on Monday and a flag raising ceremony on Tuesday.

“It [winning] was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Huber said. “It means a lot to have this recognition and this celebration here for us.”

The title is the team’s 42nd national championship between the two national championships contested each year.

University president, Gary Roberts, a former member of the speech team at Bradley, spoke about the domination the team has had.

“In any endeavor, if you finish in the top four in the country, it’s a huge celebration,” Roberts said. “If we don’t win, we’re disappointed,”

In addition to the team’s national championship, there were three individual titles. Sophomore Emily Trader won in persuasive speaking; sophomore Joshua Beckles won duo interpretation with junior Trijae Johnson, who also won oral interpretation individually.

Trader’s persuasive speech was about how the deaf and hard of hearing community is more likely to be victims of domestic violence. As a member of the hard of hearing community, Trader said she felt her personal connection to the topic helped.

“We have a saying on the team that ‘The most heart wins the round,’” Trader said. “I cared so much more about my topic and my speech than anyone else did, and that was obvious to the judges.”

Now, the team will try to take home its second national championship of the season this weekend at the National Forensics Association championship in California.

Interim director of forensics, Justin Helmley, said he thinks winning last weekend will help the team this weekend.

“I think it is huge in terms of making the final push worth it,” Helmley said. “They are coming off the adrenaline of winning a national championship and I think having the full team there for the next one will make it an energetic push for them to finish out the year strong.”

Roberts finished out the ceremony with a precursor to what he hopes the team can do this weekend.

“I will see you all in a week when we do this again with another national championship,” Roberts said.

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