UA Speech and Debate Team triumphs with state championship win


It’s two in a row for The University of Akron Speech and Debate Team as it again wins the Ohio Forensics Association State Championship. The event was hosted at Capital University in Bexley on Feb. 17 and 18. UA dominated all 11 individual events offered, and won more than half — 32 — of the 61 final round placements available.

In addition to the University’s victory in the Team Sweepstakes competition, UA took top overall speaker honors for the fourth year in a row as sophomore Nathan Hill, of Las Vegas, Nev., won the trithon championship. The trithon is a special category designated for students who are entered in events showcasing all three categories of public speaking — limited preparation speaking, public address speaking and oral interpretation of literature. Senior Abby Zerull, of Twinsburg, won second place in trithon, which she had won in both her sophomore and junior year at the championships. 


Pictured in the front row, from left, are Taylor Mills, Kelsey Jones, Abby Zerull and Ethan Plaster. In the back row, from left, are Mark Rittenour, Grae Pollard, Adi Rajiv, Will Reilly, Nathan Hill, Nicholas Golina, Kate Seno, Lydia Mainzer and Amanda Layman.

Senior Kelsey Jones, of Green, was a repeat state champion in both after dinner speaking and, along with her partner, Nathan Hill, duo interpretation. Jones has won nine individual state titles during her four years on the team. Hill also bested the competition in informative speaking, and as state runner-up in persuasive speaking, he will represent UA and Ohio at the Interstate Oratorical Association’s national contest at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in April.

Other individual state champions included Abby Zerull, state champion in extemporaneous speaking for the second consecutive year, and poetry interpretation.

Also contributing to UA’s big win were sophomore Nicholas Golina of Canton, and freshmen, Lydia Mainzer, Medina; Taylor Mills, Wooster; Ethan Plaster, North Canton; Grae Pollard, Canal Fulton; Adi Rajiv, Bangalore, India; Will Reilly, Westlake; and Kate Seno, Northbrook, Ill.

At the tournament, The University of Akron team amassed a total of 353 points, nearly tripling its closest opponent. Ohio University, Cedarville University, John Carroll University and Heidelberg University rounded out this year’s top five teams.

‘Depth of talent

The UA Speech and Debate Team, housed in the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication, is directed by Mark Rittenour, professor of instruction in communication, and Amanda Layman, graduate assistant coach. Many alumni of the team perennially return to offer coaching, judging and other contributions to its continued success.

“Strong universities value speech and debate,” notes Rittenour. “UA’s victory this year not only showcases our current students’ depth of talent, but it proves to future students that if they are in Ohio and want to compete on an intercollegiate speech team, The University of Akron is the place to do it.

There will be no resting on laurels for these student orators.

The Speech and Debate Team will represent UA at the 2017 National Speech Championships at Northwestern University in March, the American Forensic Association’s National Individual Events Tournament at Bradley University in April, and the National Forensic Association National Speech and Debate Tournament at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, also in April.