January 29, 2024

JR Saling wins top speech/debate student in the Northwest; LC rolls to gold

JR Saling (CAS ’24) secured the Brent Northup award for the top individual student in the Northwest Forensics conference, as the team earned a season-long gold medal with championships in British Parliamentary debate, IPDA debate and individual speaking events.

For the eighth time in eleven years, the top speech and debate student in the Northwest Forensics Conference calls Palatine Hill home.

JR Saling (’24) capped off an incredible weekend at for Lewis & Clark’s speech and debate team by securing the Brent Northup award for the top individual student in the Northwest Forensics conference. As a whole, the team earned the NFC’s gold medal for the eight time in nine years, buoyed by championship performances in multiple formats of speech and debate at Pacific University’s Scheller Invitational, held January 26-28 in Forest Grove.

The Northwest Conference is a collection of schools from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah, with hundreds of students recording season-long performance at three designated tournaments: Lewis & Clark’s Steve Hunt Classic, Linfield’s Mahaffey Invitational and Pacific’s Scheller. Saling entered the weekend in second place, but was able to move into the top spot by winning championships in Extemporaneous Speaking, Informative Speaking and IPDA debate, along with a third place performance in Editorial Commentary. 

The Lewis & Clark team was successful in multiple formats of competition. In British Parliamentary debate, Eeshani Thomas (’24) and Johnny Nieters (’24), two members of L&C’s contingent who went to Vietnam over winter break, were the champions of the tournament, with Thomas earning the top individual speaker at the tournament and Nieters finishing in a tie for third. It was L&C’s first BP championship at a designated in six years, and first since expanding the BP program in 2021. Joining Thomas and Nieters in elimination rounds were the partnerships of Emily Shem (’25)/Carson Chamness (’24) and Fernando Dzul Fisher (’24)/Bantfu Dlamini (’26), who were all among the top ten speakers as well. Debbie Mukuka (’27) joined the awards parade by finishing as eighth place junior speaker.

In speech and IPDA events, the team added to Saling’s championships with an impressive number of finals appearances, including wins for Josh Nguyen (’26) in Communication Analysis and Program Oral Interpretation as well as Lewis Eibner (’27) in Poetry Interpretation. Additionally, Josie Stenzel (’24) was second in Impromptu Speaking, fifth in After Dinner Speaking and sixth in Prose Interpretation along with a quarterfinals in IPDA; Alana O’Grady (’27) was second in Dramatic Interpretation; Riley McGinley (’27) was second in After Dinner Speaking and a quarterfinals in IPDA; and Carmen Quinn (’26) was fourth in Informative Speaking.

All told, the team’s performances in all formats led to team honors at the tournament as well as the gold medal for season-long performance.

Director of Speech/Debate Joe Gantt said of the team’s success, “What an incredible weekend for this team! They’ve practiced incredibly hard and elevated their performances for this weekend, and it showed in their results. JR’s award for the top overall student in the Northwest is a testament both to incredible talent and motivation across both speech & debate; Eeshani and Johnny broke through for a well earned championship in BP debate; Josh and Lewis showed that the future is bright for our speech students. Every member of the team was performing at the highest level, which earned us one of our team goals each season, an NFC gold medal.”

The L&C team will take the next weekend off before resuming competition Feb 10-11 in multiple locations.