April 19, 2021

Lewis & Clark wins President’s Two team national title; Smothers, Lutz and Webb finish in top five nationally

The Lewis & Clark speech / debate team won its first NFA team national title in program history, finishing as the top team in the President’s Two division for medium-sized programs.

The Lewis & Clark speech / debate team won its first National Forensics Association team national title in program history April 16-19, finishing as the first place team in the President’s Two division. The President’s Two division recognizes medium-sized programs across the nation. In open sweepstakes, where programs of all size are competing with one another, L&C finished in the top 10 out of 81 schools.

The team was powered by the individual performances of Hope Smothers (’22), who finished as the national runner-up in Prose Interpretation; Aaron Lutz (’22), who took third place in Extemporaneous Speaking and was a semifinalist in Impromptu Speaking; and Ally Knighton (’21) who placed as a semifinalist in Informative Speaking and a quarterfinalist in Prose Interpretation. Lincoln-Douglas debater Alex Webb (’22) was also recognized as the fifth place individual speaker nationally.

Smothers’ 2nd place finish was the highest placement for an oral interpretation event in Lewis & Clark’s program history.

Also advancing to elimination rounds were Eden Kenney (’22), who advanced to quarterfinals in Rhetorical Criticism and octofinals in Informative Speaking; Syl Knauss (’24), octofinalist in both Prose and Program Oral Interpretation; and Gavin Patchet (’23), octofinalist in Impromptu Speaking.

In LD debate, Webb and Anthony Kolshorn (’21) both advanced to the top 32 round of competition before falling on close 2-1 judges’ decisions. They were joined by Cyan Ridge (’24) in elimination rounds. As a whole, Lewis & Clark received 7th place in Lincoln-Douglas sweepstakes, the first top ten sweepstakes finish for the program in LD. L&C was also one of only two programs to finish in the top ten in both open sweepstakes and LD sweepstakes.

Director of Speech/Debate Joe Gantt said of the finish, “This was such a fantastic performance by each and every member of this team. Every member contributed toward the team awards. In a year where these students have had so many challenges, it is especially nice to be recognized as national champions in the President’s Two division. As we have been growing as a program, this is likely the last chance we had for this particular award.

I also want to thank Ally and Anthony, our seniors, for the leadership and excellence they have demonstrated over their careers at L&C. They helped to build our team to where it is today.”

The NFA tournament marked the end of the season for L&C speech and debate. The team will return to competition in the fall, with hopefulness that a return to in-person competition will occur as soon as possible.