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McCabe-Juhnke wins district forensics coaching award

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Out of only six schools in the nation that have qualified for all 30 years of a national forensics tournament, one is right here in south central Kansas.

Five Bethel College students, accompanied by a coach and assistant coach, traveled to Austin, Texas, April 4-7 to compete in the 2008 American Forensic Association-National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET), held April 4-7 at the University of Texas-Austin.

Although the Bethel squad didn’t bring home any big trophies, senior Cory Buchta finished in the top 30 in After-Dinner Speaking. Put in perspective, “there were 126 in the event,” said Bethel College director of forensics John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts. “So out of the 126 best after-dinner speakers in the nation, Cory ranked between 26th and 28th.”

McCabe-Juhnke himself came home with an award, the 2008 Carroll and Barbara Hickey Distinguished Service Award from District III of AFA.

The award goes to a director of forensics in the six-state region that includes Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Students who competed at the AFA District III tournament at the University of Oklahoma March 7-8 voted to select the honoree.

McCabe-Juhnke found out he had been nominated by Alex Dryden from the Kansas State University forensics team. According to Shannon Carey, one of McCabe-Juhnke’s students (since he wasn’t present for the nominations), Dryden commended McCabe-Juhnke for his “care and insight in writing ballots for competitors, and for service to the broader community through prison theater work.”

The award was announced April 4 in Austin at a meeting for District III coaches and students attending AFA-NIET.

“I’m honored, of course,” said McCabe-Juhnke, “especially since the awardee is selected by students in our district, who are among the best competitors in the nation. I’ve written hundreds of ballots over my 20 years of coaching forensics at Bethel. It’s nice to know that at least a few of the recipients of those critical comments have found them useful.”

The award honors Dr. Carroll and Barbara Hickey, former coaches of forensics at the University of Texas-Arlington, who gave years of service to college forensics in District III.

In addition to Buchta and Carey (senior from Moundridge), Becky Buchta, junior from Newton, Dana Daugharthy, junior from Iola, and Alex Stucky, freshman from Moundridge, competed for Bethel College at AFA-NIET.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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