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News Archives - 2004

Augsburg Speech Team wins prestigious oratory award, 2nd place sweepstakes at state tournament

Mar. 5, 2004

Augsburg's Crystal Harles won 2nd place and a bid to the nation's oldest and most prestigious oratory tournament. In addition, Heather Nystrom won sixth place in oratory and the Augsburg's Speech Team earned the 2nd place sweepstakes award at the Minnesota College Forensic Association's Annual State Tournament, in their division. The tournament was held Feb. 22 and 23, at Concordia College, in Moorhead, Minn.

By placing second in Oratory, Harles becomes one of two students to represent Minnesota at the Interstate Oratory Competition. Only two students from each state qualify to attend the national oratory tournament, held in Phoenix, April 22-25. The Interstate Oratory Competition is more than 127 years old, and stands as the nation's premiere oratory competition.

"I never expected to actually qualify for the I.O.C.," said Harles, a senior from Fargo. "The competition at State is so tough, you can't expect something like this." Head coach, Bob Groven, in Augsburg's Communication Studies Department, agreed, "Crystal's script is very strong, and she is an exceptional performer, but given the level of competition at the tournament we couldn't expect her to qualify."

Harles' oratory takes a personal approach to the issue of international slavery. The speech notes that millions of people, in the United States and around the world, are still owned by others and forced to work their entire lives for no pay in deplorable conditions. "I tried to make the issue personal for the audience," Harles said, "by including many stories about people forced into slavery, and by explaining how anyone in the audience can afford to buy a slave's freedom. I think when people understood that I wasn't just telling them to write to Congress, they took the solution seriously."

In addition to Harles' success, Heather Nystrom from Kimball, Minn. earned sixth place in the same event. "I was really pleased to win the award, because my topic can be a tough sell,” said Nystrom, "My speech tries to convince people to learn more about statistical literacy, and appeal it to their daily lives. It's important, but not always the most exciting material. We tried to use a lot of humor to keep people's attention."

The team's 3rd place sweepstakes award, in the limited entry division, carries special weight because Minnesota's State tournament contains some of the toughest competition in the country, because many Minnesota teams routinely place in the top 20 nationally.

The tournament included hundreds of students, from 16 colleges and universities around the state. Speech tournaments do not divide events by NCAA Divisions, so small colleges, such as Augsburg, compete against large university campuses, such as the University of Minnesota, or Minnesota State University at Mankato.

College speech tournaments hold competition in 11 recognized events, and two debate categories. These events range from presenting dramatic monologues and persuasive political topics, to impromptu speeches given with only a few minutes of preparation time. At any given tournament, all eleven events are run together, like in a track tournament. The events are staggered over two days or more. A typical college speech tournament takes most of two days, ending with a series of final rounds in which the top six competitors face off against one another.

Augsburg's Speech Team is open to any Augsburg student, with or without prior speech or debate experience.