National champion, runner-up push Bronco forensics to 12th at national tournament

At the American Forensics Association-National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) in Peoria, Illinois, the Hastings College Bronco Forensics team saw six students make it into the quarterfinals or better, with one student finishing as a national champion and another finishing as a national runner up and being named an All-American.

hastingscollegeforensics wThe strong performance pushed the team to 12th place out of more than 70 colleges and universities across the country that compete at the tournament, the team’s highest finish since 2008.

Caleb Merritt, a junior from Brookings, South Dakota, finished first in dramatic interpretation and is the program’s fifth national champion since 1990. He won with perfect scores from all five judges.

Senior Eunice Adounkpe of Omaha, Nebraska, finished in second place in prose interpretation, and was also named a Forensics All-American, the 12th All-American in the program’s history.

Other students making it into the quarterfinals included Andrew Boge, a junior from Johnston, Iowa, in communication analysis; and Carly Spotts-Falzone, a sophomore from Plymouth, Minnesota, in program of oral interpretation and in duo interpretation with Adounkpe.

Students who qualified for nationals include:

First Year Competitors
  • Zach Huffaker of Kenesaw, Nebraska – Persuasive speaking
  • Elizabeth Hansen of Fremont, Nebraska – After dinner speaking
  • Alli Kennon of Elko New Market, Minnesota – Informative speaking, prose speaking, duo interpretation w/Merritt, program oral interpretation, communication analysis, poetry interpretation
  • Jadah Morrison of  Chaska, Minnesota – Persuasive speaking, dramatic interpretation, poetry interpretation
  • Nathan Navratil of Circle Pines, Minnesota-  Program oral interpretation, duo interpretation w/Merritt, after dinner speaking, poetry interpretation
  • Karina El-Refai of Ottertail, Minnesota – Prose speaking, program oral interpretation, dramatic interpretation
  • Kordell Miller of Ceresco, Nebraska – Poetry interpretation
Second Year Competitors
  • Dianna Rulon of Arcadia, Indiana – Impromptu speaking
  • Austin Heinlein of Hutchinson, Kansas – Informative speaking, Impromptu speaking, dramatic interpretation
  • Carly Spotts-Falzone of Plymouth, Minnesota – Prose speaking, informative speaking, program oral interpretation, dramatic interpretation, poetry interpretation, and duo interpretation with Adounkpe
Third Year Competitors
  • Caleb Merritt of Brookings, South Dakota – Informative speaking, prose speaking, duo interpretation w/Kennon,duo interpretation w/Navratil, dramatic interpretation, poetry interpretation
  • Andrew Boge of Johnston, Iowa – Prose speaking, informative speaking, extemporaneous speaking, persuasive speaking, dramatic interpretation, communication analysis
  • Kenzie Shofner of Maple Plain, Minnesota – Impromptu speaking, prose speaking, program oral interpretation, after dinner speaking, communication analysis
Fourth Year Competitor
  • Eunice Adounkpe of Omaha, Nebraska – Impromptu speaking, prose speaking, program oral interpretation, dramatic interpretation, poetry interpretation, and duo interpretation with Spotts-Falzone

The national competition marks the end of a strong season for the forensics team this year, which included setting a school record with five individual state championships at the Nebraska Intercollegiate Forensics Association State Tournament in February.

Hastings College is a private, four-year institution located in Hastings, Nebraska, that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. With 64 majors and 15 pre-professional programs, Hastings College has been named among “Great Schools, Great Prices” by U.S. News & World Report and a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review. For more, go to

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