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Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Aztec Forensics is now ranked No. 12 in the nation after competing at the Grossmont College Invitational, held virtually Nov. 13-15. Aztec Forensics is now ranked No. 12 in the nation after competing at the Grossmont College Invitational, held virtually Nov. 13-15.

Aztec Forensics Boosts National Ranking Amid a Changing Stage

The SDSU School of Communication speech and debate team boosts its national ranking to No. 12 with the support of coaches and funding.
By Aleah Jarin

There is no debate. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Aztec Forensics, San Diego State University’s competitive speech and debate team within the School of Communication, continues to stay active, hone their public speaking skills and attend virtual tournaments during the pandemic.

The student organization is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation — up from No. 18 — by the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence after history junior Matthew Hitomi and marketing junior Kyle Pryor-Landman went undefeated at the Grossmont College Invitational, held virtually Nov. 13-15. Pryor-Landman placed third overall in speaker points for the competition.

Engagement remains high among the forensics team, which has moved in-person debate prep to Zoom meetings and Discord servers to communicate and talk about strategy.

Hitomi and Pryor-Landman credit the coaching staff — which includes seven people who all hold at least one national championship in their respective field — for their support and fostering a culture of improvement during the pandemic.

“We are very fortunate to have coaches who are former national champions,” Hitomi said. “Our coaches are really helpful and willing to help us grow in the direction that we want to.”

Ashley Nuckels Cuevas, director of forensics and advisor of the speech and debate team, also praised the coaching staff’s role in helping the team achieve national success. 

“These are people who are extremely good at what they do, and they also care a lot about our students,” Nuckels Cuevas said. “The fact that SDSU Forensics has such an amazing administrative support is a reason why we’ve been able to achieve these ranks.”

Assistant Director of Debate Mikay Parsons has adopted a philosophy of transparency this year as a coach and said the greatest lesson students can learn at the moment is patience.

“I am humbled by the amount of support I observe the students provide to each other, which honestly motivates me to think of ways to better support the team as a whole,” Parsons said.

The student organization also receives support from Instructionally Related Activities funds — for activities and laboratory experiences that are partially sponsored by an academic discipline or department — and the Student Success Fee that has allowed the team to obtain equipment needed to compete in virtual tournaments as well as host the annual Aztec Invitational which occurs in the spring semester. This tournament brings in more than 2,000 competitors from 30 universities and community colleges. 

Although the forensics team has had to adapt to a virtual environment, the pandemic has allowed the team to attend more virtual tournaments that would have required extensive travel in the past, including a tournament hosted by Bradley University in Illinois in early November.

Students of all majors are eligible to participate in Aztec Forensics team at no cost and can receive course credit and qualify for scholarships for their involvement. Visit the Aztec Forensics website for more information on how to join.