Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team wins overall state champion title


Jesten Richardson

Thundering Word team member Hunter Barclay poses with trophies the team won at the 2019 WVIFA State Tournament in Fairmont, West Virginia.

After winning the title of overall state champion at the West Virginia Intercollegiate Forensics Association State Tournamentin Fairmont, West Virginia, members of Marshall University’s Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team returned to Marshall Monday.

“It was like a great accomplishment,” said Clara Adkins, an instructor in the department of communication studies. “I mean, Marshall has the standard of being on top in the state, but you never know when you go, because there are other schools, and when your name is announced as West Virginia state champion, champion of the WVIFA (State) Tournament, it is just exhilarating. It proves that all of your hard work has paid off.”

The Thundering Word team also won overall in individual events and got second in debate, Adkins said. The team returned with almost 50 trophies, and each member of the team who was able to attend the tournament had won at least one of them, she said.

Adkins said the team performed to the best of its ability at the state tournament and worked hard to prepare for the tournament, and the results show how dedicated members are.

“I am extremely proud of every competitor and every coach. It truly takes everyone’s dedication and commitment to achieve such outstanding accomplishments,” Adkins said. “Several team members had set personal goals, and I believe at least one, if not all, goals were met by each person. As a team, we surpassed any expectations I had.”

Student Body President Hunter Barclay was named top speaker at the event. Barclay, who is in his fourth year on the team, gained this title when he won a pentathlon event, Adkins said.

Pentathlonis an event where a student has to be entered in three different genres of competition plus two additional events, then all of the rankings are added, and the person that has the highest amount of points, because of their placings in preliminary rounds and finals, is named Pentathlon champion, Adkins said.

“Being the top speaker of the tournament was a tremendous honor and accomplishment,” Barclay said. “I had won pentathlon during my sophomore year, but I narrowly missed winning it last year, so my goal was to win pentathlon as a senior. Winning pentathlon is very difficult because I had to excel in diverse event categories, such as interpretation events (acting), limited preparation events (impromptu and extemporaneous), public address events (memorized speeches) and debate. Pentathlon requires much versatility, and I think this award reflects my willingness to try diverse events even if they are outside of my comfort zone.”

Barclay is also one of several team members who will be heading to the national tournament in California. Adkins said she is pleased that five new students became eligible for nationals after competing in the state tournament, which makes seven members, or over half of the team, heading to nationals.

Barclay said the team is like a second family to him. He said the coaches treat him like their own son and are constantly affirming him, even as they offer constructive criticism. He also said the head coaches, Adkins and Nancy Jackson, an instructor in the department of communication studies, not only push the team to vie for tournament championships but remind team members to have fun and to encourage one another.

“My teammates and I watched each other as we performed our speeches, and we helped each other prepare for our events,” Barclay said. “My favorite part of the weekend was the state championship in debate. Though I did not win the debate, all of my team members either helped me to prepare my arguments or took the time to attend the championship debate. Their support and love are greater than any award that I won.”

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].

Tanner Wooten
Members of Marshall University’s Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team pose with their trophies at the 2019 WVIFA State Tournament.