Marian University’s Speech and Debate team are all smiles after placing fourth nationally in the speech and debate competition March 9-12, 2022. It’s the highest finish out of any faith-based institution at the Pi Kappa Delta National tournament.
“The award reflects not just the hard work done over this past year, but it’s representative of the past two years we've transitioned from online back to fully in-person competition,” explained Assistant Communication Professor and Speech Team Coach Drew Stewart. “Our top-five finish means we're resilient, skilled at speaking in different forms and united under a common goal.”
That’s evident as speech team members traveled to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida to battle it out with more than 70 other schools, some much larger. With the team’s strong fourth-place finish, it marks the fifth straight year Marian has finished in the top 10. “We bring quality performances and culturally, we enhance the competition with our variety of topics,” Coach Stewart added. To put it in perspective, Marian did so well, the University of Alabama and Tennessee State University—both larger schools-finished 6th & 7th respectively behind Marian’s team.
“I can confidently say that speech and debate has been the most impactful experience I've had during my time at Marian,” said Marian Senior Grace Von Lehman ’22. “Not only has it shaped me as a writer and speaker, but it has made me more critical, creative, and compassionate in every part of my life,” she explained. Von Lehman ‘22 is the second-ever Marian student recognized as one of Kappa Delta’s 10 Outstanding All-American Students who, throughout her four years of speech and debate, demonstrated excellence in academics, competition, community service, and advocacy.
“So much of my success is owed to the support of my team and coaches, who have shared their own work, insight, and criticism with me to help me expand my imagination and create the best performances I can,” Von Lehman added. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in rhetoric and writing while hoping to continue her work in writing and environmental education, while also creating communications projects advancing both.
At the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, students that finished in the top 20 percent are awarded as excellent, top 10 percent as superior, and top superior with three top speakers in the nation in any speech and debate category. To put it this way, the team was on fire and “brought the smoke,” Instructor Stewart said.
Other distinguished Marian speech team members included Senior Julian Santos ’22 who was awarded excellent in dramatic interpretation, superior in discussion, as he also ranked third in programmed oral interpretation. Senior Abigail Unrue ‘22 captured an excellent in interviewing award while Junior Nate Rodenburg ’23, captured an excellent in prose interpretation.
Other Marian University team members included Lydia Shock ‘24, excellent in discussion and superior informative speaking, Natalie Rund ’24 won excellence in persuasive speaking and superior in dramatic interpretation, Alex Rapp ’23 scored high with excellent in broadcast journalism while Mariangel Morales-Aparicio received excellent in Spanish language impromptu speaking.
Rounding out the team with Marian’s freshmen include Brock Worrell ‘25 who won national semi-finalist in the International Public Debate Association category, Megan Henney ’25 for excellent in the discussion category and the Reader's Theatre Team of Alex Rapp ’23, Nate Rodenburg ’23 Natalie Rund ‘24 and Jeffrey Martin ‘23 won National Runner-up in Reader's Theatre.
Congratulations to the entire speech and debate team for a job exceptionally done!