Sophomore Russell Skorina and Junior Victor Torres Compete at Speech Nationals

During the first weekend in April, two Colorado College Speech students participated at The American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) national speech competition after qualifying during the 2016-17 season. Under the direction of Head Speech Coach Sarah Hinkle, junior Victor Torres and sophomore Russell Skorina qualified for nationals by consistently placing in the top three of their events throughout the regular season. Both Torres and Skorina participated in four events at the national level, appearing alongside students from 75 other colleges and universities.

Speech and Debate team members junior Victor Torres (left) and Russel Skorina (right). Photos courtesy of Mikaela Burns

The 2016-17 season marks Hinkle’s seventh year at CC. With a bachelor’s in theatre arts and speech communication and a master’s in curriculum instruction with a literature specialty, Hinkle coaches CC students in three different types of speech, totaling 11 events. “A lot of people think Speech is just about public speaking,” said Hinkle. “But Speech can also involve acting and interpretations.”

Distinctly separate from Debate, Speech competitions challenge its participants to deliver original speeches ranging from seven to 10 minutes over a variety of subjects. This year, CC’s Speech competitive travel team consisted of four students—first-year Natalie Sarver, senior David Trevithick, Torres, and Skorina—with a few others competing in only regional competitions. Considered a relatively young team with only one graduating senior among them, the CC team practices six to 10 hours a week and makes eight to 10 travel trips during the regular September to April season.

Unlike larger universities where Speech teams heavily recruit and require the time commitment equivalent to a Division I sport, CC Speech offers no such incentives. Skipping out on the traditional college social scene, student participation is completely voluntary and largely depends on an individual’s own self-motivation, dedication, and drive. “It’s a different animal recruiting at a small liberal arts college,” said Hinkle. “I have no carrot to offer. These students make a huge commitment to Speech, and give up six-ten hours a week plus weekends to compete.”

Meanwhile, competitors at larger schools like the University of Texas Austin enjoy an extensive budget, numerous coaches, and spend upwards of 30 hours a week perfecting their craft. The fact that CC students compete at the same level as the large universities with significantly less resources speaks to the talent and dedication of the team. “We’re a special kind of underdog,” said Hinkle.

But the benefits don’t stop when the season ends or even after graduation. Combined with a CC degree, Hinkle believes students’ experience on the Speech team prepares them to tackle almost any industry they wish to pursue after graduation. The worlds of marketing, public affairs, international relations, and business, among others, depend on the strong communication skills that the Speech team practices every day.

Speech team training remains open to any Colorado College students that are interested. Training begins during Block 1 next year.

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