April 23, 2015

Sydney Machesky earns national championship, WSU speech team garners highest ever national ranking

How persuasive are Sydney Machesky and the Wayne State speech team?

Well, Machesky finished first in the nation in persuasive speaking and the team finished first in their division and seventh in the nation - the highest national ranking in the team's history - during the 2015 National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament.

"Being a national champion is always something I've dreamed of accomplishing, but was always a goal that I felt was unattainable because it's so difficult to do," Machesky said. "It's incredibly rewarding and definitely shocking to have this title. I feel very blessed and lucky."

Machesky and the speech team earned the accolades during competition against 68 other universities at the tournament, held April 16-20 at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Machesky, a senior majoring in public relations and theatre, outperformed 150 other persuasion students with a speech spotlighting the inattention given to the growing problem of missing Native American women in the United States. She and teammate Gaia Klotz, a junior, finished sixth in the nation in duo interpretation, an event that featured 126 competitors. Machesky also finished 13th out of 113 students for individual sweepstakes (best overall performance across five events).

"This is an amazing accomplishment," said Kelly Young, associate professor of communication and director of WSU's forensics program. "We have not had this kind of success in individual public speaking events since the early 1990s. To win the President's I Division Championship is rather remarkable; to then go on to finish seventh in the nation is almost unheard of with this number of entries."

With five students entered in the tournament, Wayne State finished with a national champion, one finalist (Machesky and Klotz), a semifinalist in extemporaneous speaking (Nick Norton, junior), and three quarter-finalists (Machesky in prose and rhetorical criticism; Norton in impromptu speaking).

"It really speaks to the incredible quality of each of our entries," Young said. "I am incredibly proud of the student competitors and their graduate student coaches."

The WSU speech team last had a national champion more than 20 years ago, when Kevin Minch, now associate vice president of academic affairs at Truman State University, won national championships in Lincoln-Douglas Debate in 1991 and impromptu speaking in 1994.

"All year, Brandon Bumstead, our head coach, and I have had one goal: To place in open sweepstakes," Machesky said. "To have won our division and placed seventh overall is surreal. He and I were both ecstatic. Our success is truly a testament to Brandon's dedication to this team and four years of hard work by myself and my teammates."

In March, the speech team won a state championship, with eight individual state champions:  Machesky (three championships), Norton (two), freshman Kevin Mardirosian (two), Klotz (one) and senior Brad Meloche (one).

"This achievement speaks to the dedication of our students and their coaches," said Lee Wilkins, chair of Wayne State's Department of Communication. "What looks like a single-year accomplishment really represents multiple years of learning, coaching and growing.

"The forensics program remains one of the gems at Wayne State University," Wilkins continued, "proving that, in speech and debate, Wayne State not only is the best in the state but also is equal to programs at elite private institutions and in the Ivy League."

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