UIC Speech closes season with 8th place finish in the nation

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The University of Illinois Chicago’s Speech Team closed out its fifth year at UIC and third as the University’s Forensics Program at the National Forensics Association’s National Tournament held online this year. UIC Speech finished 8th in open sweepstakes amongst almost 100 colleges and universities from around the country.

The National Forensic Association (NFA) is an academic association dedicated to providing leadership in intercollegiate speech and debate education in the United States. The NFA sponsors the annual collegiate national championship in Individual Events and Lincoln Douglas Debate during April.

As such a young team, a top 10 finish is impressive. The team was led by team vice president and junior Maleeha Rasheed (College of Engineering), who earned her second national championship of the season. Rasheed won the national title in Extemporaneous Speaking. She also finished fifth place in Impromptu Speaking, along with finishing in the top 48 in the nation in After Dinner Speaking.

Freshman Jazz Jabulani (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences/College of Architecture, Design and the Arts) enjoyed a break-out performance at the tournament. Jabulani finished in the top 12 in Prose Interpretation, as well as a top 24 finish in Dramatic Interpretation and top 48 finishes in After Dinner Speaking, Poetry Interpretation and Duo Interpretation with partner/senior Damian Samsonowicz (College of Liberal Arts nd Sciences).

Fellow freshman Lavontae Morrow (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) continued his successful season finishing in the top 24 in the nation in Program Oral Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation and Rhetorical Criticism along with a top 48 placing in Informative Speaking.

The returning underclass includes other talented students who helped the team reach its best performance in its short history. Junior and team secretary/treasurer, Jaron Cano (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) and his partner/senior Onyinye Udeogu (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) finished in the top 24 in Duo Interpretation. Sophomore Zoe Bridges finished in the top 24 with Samsonowicz, as well as in the top 48 in Informative Speaking. Freshman Darrow Richmond (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) finished in the top 48 in Poetry Interpretation.

The UIC team returns a very talented group and congratulates two very important members as they graduate this spring; team president Onyinye Udeogu and social chair/historian Damian Samsonowicz. Udeogu, along with her Duo with Cano, also finished in the top 48 in After Dinner Speaking, Dramatic Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation. Udeogu has accepted a position after graduation with a research study at Harvard University.

Samsonowicz, a transfer student from Moraine Valley Community College, finishes his career with top 24 finishes in Duo with Bridges and in Program Oral Interpretation, along with top 48 finishes in Dramatic Interpretation and Persuasion Speaking. Samsonowicz has been admitted to several graduate programs throughout the country and will pursue a masters’ degree in communication.

The National Forensics Association National Tournament’s open division sweepstakes title was awarded to Western Kentucky University with the University of Texas at Austin in second, Bradley University, George Mason University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Alabama and Illinois State finishing third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh ahead of the Flames.

The NFA National Tournament recognizes divisions based upon the size of entry. UIC finished 3rd in the President’s 1 Division for teams with 26-42 entries. UIC followed George Mason University and Illinois State University in the standing ahead of Seton Hall University, Cornell University and Ohio University.

The UIC’s team director Vance Pierce was inducted into the National Forensics Association’s Hall of Fame Class of 2021 at the tournament, which recognized his efforts as a competitor at Bradley University, leadership of the UIC program and service to the forensics community.

This year’s UIC team ends a record-breaking season for the program that included 13th place at the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament and 5th at the National Speech Championship, along with a runner-up finish at the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association’s State Tournament.

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