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Freshmen get rigorous introduction to college forensics competition

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel College forensics team opened the season with trips to Sterling College Sept. 24-25 and Hutchinson Community College Sept. 26 to compete in the “Debates on a Plain” Swing Tournaments.

The Threshers placed fourth overall in the sweepstakes. At Sterling, freshmen C.J. Fischer and Hank Unruh, both of Newton, took second in Novice Parliamentary Debate; Alex Stucky, senior from Moundridge, was third in Impromptu Speaking; Julia Huxman, junior from Wichita, placed fourth in Informative Speaking and was a semifinalist in Prose Interpretation; and Marike Stucky, freshman from Moundridge, took fourth in Programmed Oral Interpretation.

“This was an extremely competitive first tournament of the year,” said John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts and forensics director. “We were competing against people who were nationals finalists last year. So we saw some great competition.”

At the Hutchinson tournament, Alex Stucky took third in Impromptu Speaking and sixth in Extemporaneous Speaking and Marike Stucky was fourth in Programmed Oral Interpretation. Brandon Schwager, junior from of Lawrence, was a semifinalist in Extemporaneous Speaking.

“This tournament was a great one to showcase the differences, due to the level of competition,” said Gail Stucky, assistant forensics director and debate coach. “We got to see some of the best and hopefully learn from the best.

“In Programmed Oral Interpretation, for example,” she continued, “Marike Stucky competed against last year’s national champion. He was, in Marike’s words, ‘incredible.’”

This first tournament of the year proved to be a learning experience while giving insight into what freshman members of the Bethel squad should expect in college competition.

“We have some great returning competitors and lots of up-and-coming freshmen,” Gail Stucky said. “Now that the students who competed [at Sterling and HCC] have gotten feedback from judges, coaches and faculty from other colleges and universities, they can retool and refine their events. That means more research, re-writing, refining characterizations and lots and lots of book work.”

“Over half of the squad is new this year,” McCabe-Juhnke said. “The greatest challenge is getting used to the college style of performance, which requires much more preparation, sophistication and professionalism than high school competition. Getting out early is the best thing novices can do, to get an idea of what college-level completion is like.”

Bethel was one of 19 schools competing in the “Debates on a Plain” Swing Tournament. Also representing the Threshers were Taylor Ambrosi, freshman from Independence, Mo., Joseph Fitch, sophomore from Independence, Mo., Matthew Frey, freshman from Moundridge, Audra Miller, sophomore from Hesston, Christopher Riesen, sophomore from Beatrice, Neb., Aaron Rudeen, sophomore from Osage City, and Natalie Stucky, sophomore from Moundridge.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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