The Gustavus Adolphus College Forensics Team placed third out of 51 teams at the prestigious 64th annual L.E. Norton Memorial Tournament on Nov. 5-6 at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Gustavus ranked third in the tournament, competing against strong programs such as Illinois State University, Western Kentucky University, University of Texas at Austin and California State-Long Beach. The only two schools to beat the Gustavus team were George Mason University and Western Kentucky University.
The L.E. Norton Memorial Tournament, referred to simply as “the Norton” by members of the Forensics Team, annually draws teams from colleges and universities all over the country. The tournament is arguably one of the largest and most competitive tournaments of the season and serves as a litmus test for each team’s success at finals.
“The Norton is a time for us to pull out all stops and see where we might stack up at Nationals. As we generally compete at a more regional level, we consider this our ‘Fall Nationals’ or the ‘National before Nationals’ as we get to see and compete against other teams and faces we may see at Nationals,” Radcliffe said.
“Many would argue that the Norton is one of the most competitive tournaments of the year. It really tells us if we have an opportunity to do very well in April at the Nationals. I am very proud of how the team performed at the Norton and have high hopes for the future,” Professor Kristofer Kracht, head coach of the team, said.
“I think it really came down to wanting it the most. We walked into that tournament with a goal in mind, and we wanted to achieve that goal so badly. I think that passion shows through in our competition,” Radcliffe said.
Radcliffe, who won the Individual Events Sweepstakes Award, became the first Forensics Team competitor in the history of Gustavus to do so. The Individual Events Sweepstakes Award goes to the competitor who is entered in at least five events and accumulates the highest amount of points in the competition. The award is meant to reflect the most well-rounded competitor at the event.
“I am very proud to have won the Individual Events Sweepstakes Award as a member of Gustavus’ team but even cooler is that Gustavus got third place overall. That is the highest ever for Gustavus—it is the highest we have ever placed in the history of the team,”Radcliffe said.
First-year Kate Spaulding was the team’s other individual champion, taking first place in the Novice Impromptu Speaking category. Spaulding also achieved a second place finish in Novice Persuasion and a fifth place showing in Novice Informative Speaking.
The tournament season for the Forensics Team began at the end of September, with practice starting a week before fall semester. The season culminates with the Nationals competition held in April, which the team must qualify for by accumulating enough points throughout the entire season. Teams competing at Nationals are determined by a ranking system, with teams with the highest amount of accumulated points at the top.
“Our students really work 365 days out of the year. While the season may technically be only from September to April, they are working throughout the entire year. Consistent preparation is needed for success,” Kracht said.
“What is really remarkable about our success is that we are competing against schools with much better resources and finances than ourselves. Most of the schools we are up against are Division I schools with access to far more resources than we do as a small private college,” Kracht said.
The team’s goal this year for Nationals is to place in the top five of all competitors—a goal that Kracht and Radcliffe both believe to be attainable with enough commitment and preparation.
“We have taken 10th place the past two years, and that was literally unthinkable even three years ago. But now, because our growth has accelerated to such an incredible pace, I would love to take higher than 10th at nationals, and I think that is a realistic goal,” Radcliffe said.
“I definitely believe that we have what it takes to place in the top ten. As long as the team continues to commit to the process and maintain their focus they can do it. Five-hundred and ten practice speeches were given between peers in preparation for the Norton. If the team continues to give the same commitment and dedication, anything is possible,” he said.
“I definitely think our team has incredible cohesiveness. Given the amount of time we spend practicing, traveling together in vans and on buses, in hotel rooms and during tournament days, we definitely end up knowing and love everyone. When you spend this much time together, it is impossible not to bond the way we have,” Radcliffe said.
The team consists of thirty members who compete in events within three genres of forensics: interpretation, limited preparation and public address. Events are broken into subcategories within those three genres.
“One thing I love about speech is that it is all about learning. When I go to tournaments and listen to other people’s speeches, I am constantly learning. It can be incredibly inspirational as well. To have an extra-curricular team activity that only increases knowledge and allows people to stretch their minds and creativity all of the time. It truly reflects the liberal arts tradition,” Radcliffe said.