Team 8th at national forensics tourney; Herink earns championship

The UNL Speech and Debate team finished eighth in the nation and first among all Big Ten universities competing at the national tournament in Texas.
The UNL Speech and Debate team finished eighth in the nation and first among all Big Ten universities competing at the national tournament in Texas.

UNL's Speech and Debate team finished 2012 with strong performances at national tournaments.

UNL speech students placed eighth in the nation and first among all teams from the Big Ten competing at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament at the University of Texas State San Marcos April 7-9. A total of 83 schools and 500 students competed at the tournament. With this win, the speech team placed in the top 10 for the fifth straight year, and in the top 20 teams for the 17th straight year.

The highlight of the national tournament was the performance of Omaha native and senior Nick Herink who won the national championship in Program Oral Interpretation. Herink is the team’s sixth national champion since 2000. Watch a video of Herink receiving the championship award at

“Nick is one of the hardest-working students we have ever had and his victory represents the culmination of four years of hard work and extraordinary commitment to the activity,” said Aaron Duncan, UNL Speech and Debate program director. “We have amazing students and coaches here at UNL and I am so proud of all of them.”

Only the top 10 percent of students nationally qualify to compete at the AFA-NIET tournament and only the top 15 percent of those students advance to elimination rounds. Nineteen students qualified for the tournament in 65 events and nine students advanced to elimination rounds. Four students placed among the top 10 in the nation in their event. In addition to Herink’s national championship, senior Eli Barts of Omaha placed 10th in After Dinner Speaking. Sophomores Jesse Sladky of Wahoo placed sixth overall in Communication Analysis and Josh Planos of Omaha placed fifth overall in Program Oral Interpretation. Herink also was named to the AFA-NEIT All-American Team and placed 17th overall in Individual Sweepstakes.

On April 19-23, representatives from the team competed at the National Forensics Association’s Tournament of Champions at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and captured first place in the President’s Division III. Among the speech competitors, Herink placed fourth in both Prose Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation. Fellow senior Jimmy Simpson Jr. of Decatur placed 10th in Prose Interpretation. Junior Brin Walters of Saline, Mich. led the young debate squad with a 17th place individual finish.

The UNL debate team competed at the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament March 23-25 in Overland Park, Kan. In the novice division of Lincoln Douglas Debate, freshmen Jeff Garst of Omaha and Anna McTygue of Kansas City, Mo. were named the tournament’s fourth and second overall speakers. Freshman Evan Beachly of Hastings was the novice national championship.

Among other season highlights was the Speech and Debate team’s win at the Conference Challenge Tournament at Northwestern University, where the team claimed UNL’s first Big Ten title.

- Aaron Duncan, Communication Studies