Forensics team seals first-ever state title


photo courtesy by Jim Disrude

The UW-Whitewater Forensics Team celebrates their first-ever state title at the WFCA tournament on Feb 17-18. The group has dealt with many forces but owes their win to the program development and evolving.

Shannon Columb, Staff Writer

For the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater forensics team, winning a state championship has been a “slow progression.” However, the race for the state championship ended on Feb. 18 when the team scored first place at the annual Wisconsin Collegiate State Tournament.

“[Winning a state championship has] been a goal we’ve been working towards for a very long time,” assistant coach Brian Schanen said.

Last year, the team placed second behind University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, state champions for the past 32 years.

“Taking home the state title is a monumental achievement,” UW-W Forensics coach Jim Disrude said.

Disrude has been the coach for the last seven years and has seen significant growth since his first year with the team. The program struggled for several years with little participation and a low budget. For some time, the possibility of discontinuing the program loomed in the air.

“We really had to build up the program from the ground up,” Disrude said.

When Disrude first started as coach, only two students showed up to the first meeting of the season. At his first state tournament, his team received zero points.

“We were really just a non-factor at that point,” Disrude said.

Over the years, the team started to receive more attention from students as well as administration.  UW-W started hosting high school tournaments, which brought greater awareness to the program. More high school students were recruited into the program and with growing numbers and more attention brought to the team, their need for a larger budget became apparent.

The Segregated University Fee Allocation Commission (SUFAC), the Dean of the College of Arts and Communication and Chancellor Beverly Kopper started contributing to the program’s budget.

“[Kopper was] really the first in the administration to get behind our program,”  Disrude said.

With a larger budget, the team was able to broaden their travels and compete at more competitions. With more opportunities to compete, members were able to improve their skills.

In 2013, the forensics team placed second at the state tournament, the team’s “first major milestone”  according to Schanen.

Last year was a big year for the team, as they claimed both state and national titles. The team placed sixth at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, the team’s highest national ranking in its history.

Breaking UW-EC’s 32-year winning streak served as motivation for the team and is yet another way UW-W is gaining notoriety.

“We don’t just [want to] be like a one year, two year, flash in the pan; we really want to have a program here that is consistently strong year in and year out and I think we’re getting to that place now,”  Disrude said.

Sophomore Anna Messerschmidt competed in three events at state, placing second in Communication Analysis and in fifth in Prose. She was introduced to forensics in high school and instantly fell in love.

“Sports weren’t really my thing,” Messerschmidt said.

To Messerschmidt, winning state “means that we really have a passionate team.”

Sophomore Logan Mahone also performed at state, competing in five events and taking home the title of state champion for Extemporaneous Speaking. Like Messerschmidt, Mahone started forensics in high school.

Along with their fellow teammates, the two are aiming to improve themselves for future competitions. Messerschmidt is planning to try new events and Mahone aims to “continue writing speeches and doing things [he is] passionate about.”

The team is in preparation for national competitions in March and April.