Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team to compete in state tournament


photo courtesy of Clara Adkins

Members of last year’s Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team pose with trophies at last year’s state tournament.

Trophies, state titles and the chance to compete at this year’s national tournament in California are a few things members of Marshall University’s Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team will be competing for this weekend at their state tournament.

Clara Adkins, director of forensics at Marshall and an instructor in the department of communication studies, said all the students on the Thundering Word team will be competing at states, and the team hopes to get a lot of qualifying events at this tournament so that more students can compete at the national tournament in California. The team’s coaches have set a requirement for members to get at least three separate events qualified before they can attend the national tournament.

In order to qualify an event, students must make it to the final round in that event. Adkins said being in the final round of an event means a student places in the top six spots for that event at a tournament, which also earns the student a trophy. Students can qualify for more than one event at one tournament, and they also have the opportunity to be state champion in any events they compete in if they come in first.

Some events members of the Thundering Word will be competing in at the state tournament include informative speaking, persuasive speaking, prose, poetry and debate. Adkins said two members of the Thundering Word have already qualified in three events, allowing them to attend the national tournament, but that several students are just one event away.

Tanner Wooten, a junior communications major who has been a member of the team since his freshman year, is one of these students on the speech team who has not yet gotten all three of the qualified events required to head to nationals, but who will have another chance to earn their way to the national tournament at the state tournament.

Wooten, who has already qualified in poetry and prose, said the events he will be competing in at states include dramatic interpretation, prose, after dinner speaking, impromptu, poetry, improvisation duo, duo and IPDA, a form of debate. Though he has already qualified in it, Wooten said he is most excited to compete in poetry because his piece, which is about body representation for all body types, has been doing well all year and includes an original poem by him in addition to works from other sources.

Wooten said he hopes this state tournament will give him the third qualified event he needs to head to nationals. He also said one of his goals going into the state tournament is to be a state champion in an event, and he would especially like to be a state champion in the event improvisation duo.

“Ever since my freshman year, I’ve wanted to be a state champion in literally any event, but improv duo, even though it’s not at the national tournament because it’s an experimental event, is probably the one I would like to be state champion in because the first time I broke, which means I placed, it was with my best friend, and we both broke for the first time ever in improv duo, so that event has a lot of meaning to me,” Wooten said.

The Thundering Word team has been preparing for the state tournament since August of last year. Adkins said practices for the Thundering Word team entails breaking up into groups, with one coach paired with one competitor, and working anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour on one piece. She said members of the team also rotate through different coaches, instead of staying solely with one coach.

“The coaches we have are amazing,” Wooten said. “They’re not just a coach, but they go the extra level and develop that personal relationship with you where they’re like our therapist, our moms, our everything that we could ever need.”

Adkins said she is hopeful going into the state tournament and thinks that the Thundering Word team members showed their dedication last weekend when they came out for practices.

“I think that we have a lot of very dedicated team members. A lot of that’s been proven this weekend by coming out and practicing on their days off, so to speak. I think everyone really wants to do well, and I think they’re really showing their dedication,” Adkins said. “They are a great group of hardworking young adults that are very passionate about certain topics and are giving a voice to those topics in every competition they attend.”

As the students who make up the Thundering Word team prepare to try to meet individual goals at the state tournament this weekend, some members of the team, such as Wooten and Adkins, also have team goals in mind.

“We were state champion in IE (Individual Events) events last year, and I want to achieve that again this year,” Adkins said.

Wooten said he shares that goal with Adkins and said he also hopes the team will be able to regain the championship title at the state tournament.

“I am confident that this team will make Marshall proud,” Wooten said. “We have never lost IE, which is individual events, again. We want to keep the title, and last year, unfortunately we did lose the championship title overall, but we hope to regain it this year, and (with) the hard work, talent and motivation I’ve seen on this team this year, we’re going to do it.”

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected]

photo courtesy of Clara Adkins