Two members of the Ohio University speech and debate team won national titles over spring break in the Pi Kappa Delta Nationals tournament held in Orlando, Florida.
The national tournament, held March 10 through March 12, was hosted by the University of Central Florida. OU placed third overall in the competition with dozens of awards received by the end of the tournament, according to the team’s Instagram post.
The most notable of those honors were awarded to Nik Hinkle, a junior studying communication studies, and Abreanna Blose, a freshman studying journalism. The two placed first in their respective events and were deemed national champions. Additionally, this is both students’ first year on the speech and debate team.
Blose was named champion in one of her five events, “informative speaking.” The event asks its participants to deliver a 10-minute speech to a panel of judges. She said that she began researching and writing her speech in the fall semester and has been revising it ever since.
Blose’s speech focused on the topic of involuntary celibates, or “incels”: heterosexual men who use their lack of sexual activity as an excuse to express sexism through violence.
“It really started with trying to find a subject that was relevant and timely, so something that audiences could relate to and could take as an issue,” Blose said.
Blose said she doesn’t think her speech will never be completed, even after it won first place nationally. She said she works extensively with her fellow teammates and Jennifer Talbert, the team’s coach, and John A. Cassese, the director of forensics at OU, to improve the speech in any way she can.
The tournament was Hinkle’s first in-person competition with the team. He won his first place award in an event called “discussion,'' a seminar-style competition where students hold a sophisticated conversation about a previously announced topic. The event was one of five that Hinkle participated in.
Although he is a new member to the team, Hinkle said he has a background in public speaking from his time on his high school’s slam poetry team, as well as a multitude of leadership positions he has held over the years.
“They say public speaking is the number one fear in the world,” Hinkle said. “That does not apply to me.”
Hinkle said he has been working toward the tournament all year by studying discussion topics, attending the team’s weekly meetings and working one-on-one with Talbert.
“She gets into the nitty gritty so that by the time we have a tournament, everything is so polished that it's almost hard not to do well,” Hinkle said. “I think the results really speak to our level of preparation.”
Hinkle said working towards tournaments like the national competition require an immense amount of work. He said speech and debate is the organization that he devotes the most of his time to.
“It’s very much like being on a sports team,” Hinkle said. “You have to dedicate that time to practice, and it's a lot.”
Hinkle is proud of himself for achieving success soon after joining the team, but he said he doesn’t view his accomplishments as an individual effort.
“I have a hard time owning that success personally,” Hinkle said. “I wouldn't be succeeding at the level that I'm succeeding at without the support of my coach and my team.”
After she found out she won her category, Blose said she had the opportunity to perform her speech one last time in front of a large group of people, including her personal support system: her team.
“Seeing my team there and having that consistent support is so validating,” Blose said.
Grace Lach, a senior studying pre-med and communications, is the grievance and wellness officer of the team. She said she was happy she had that opportunity to observe Blose’s speech during her showcase.
“I was really excited to get to see her because I hadn't seen her do her info yet, and it was phenomenal,” Lach said. “It was clear why she got perfect scores.”
Lach said the discussion event requires participants to have a very personable and comfortable demeanor, which are words she believes perfectly describe Hinkle, so it made sense that he would excel in the event.
“That's right in Nik's wheelhouse because he's really good at making people feel heard and seen and included in the space,” Lach said.
Although Blose and Hinkle both recently joined, Lach said she was pleasantly surprised to see them do so well, and she never doubted they could succeed on a national level. She said it was enjoyable to observe the two take in the experience for the first time and feel the rush of competing in-person.
Hinkle thinks highly of his teammates and said he acknowledges the success they accomplished as a result of their hard work. He said he feels privileged to be a member of a team full of overachievers who work hard for what they care most about.
Additionally, Blose said she attributes much of her success, along with the team’s success, to Talbert and the upperclassmen members who have always set a clear example of the importance of speech and debate.
The OU speech and debate team will conclude its competition season with its upcoming tournament hosted by Illinois State University, April 14 through April 18, Blose said.
Hinkle said the team will ride the high of the spring break tournament, along with the upcoming Illinois tournament, into the organization’s future semesters.
“Everybody on the team is already thinking about what speeches they're going to write next year,” Hinkle said. “We're excited to finish strong, and we're excited to get started again.”