Thundering Word’s Victoria Ledford leads team to fifth consecutive state tournament championship

ThunderingWordVictoria Ledford isn’t predicting a national championship for Marshall University’s Thundering Word speech and debate team, but she believes they can finish in the Final Four. And, who’s going to argue with the best debater in West Virginia?

Ledford and the rest of the Marshall team head to Athens, Ohio, tomorrow to compete in the Pi Kappa Delta National Convention Tournament at Ohio University. The tournament concludes Sunday.

I expect that we will do very well,” Ledford said. “Last year, we received fourth as a team at this tournament, which is a huge feat considering there are typically about 80 schools in attendance. It’s equivalent to being in the final four of the NCAA (basketball tournament). We’ve made it that far, and though our team may be smaller this year, I expect us to do just as well.”

Ledford, a senior Honors Communications Studies major from Erwin, Tennessee, excelled in the 2015 West Virginia Intercollegiate Forensic State Championship held Feb. 13-14 at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, winning six championships to become the top competitor in the state.

Marshall dominated the field of five teams, scoring a tournament-record 876 points. Shepherd University was awarded second place. Davis and Elkins College, WVU-Parkersburg and Fairmont State University also competed.

I am very pleased that we brought home our fifth consecutive state title,” Ledford said. “I was particularly proud of our novice members, who did extremely well at the tournament. As a whole, our team brought the best they had, and I was very pleased that I won the tournament at my last-ever state competition.”
Marshall Coach Danny Ray called Ledford’s accomplishment “huge.”

She won pentathlon, which means she was the top competitor in West Virginia,” Ray said. “Only the top five events count in pentathlon and she won six events. One of her state championships didn’t count towards this honor.”

Marshall Graduate Assistant Coach Nancy Jackson said, “The students and all of the coaches worked very hard in order to accomplish this feat. Several students attempted new events and they were rewarded for their ambition.” The Thundering Word was first in overall sweepstakes and won every individual state championship.

Ledford won individual championships in Persuasive Speaking; Informative Speaking; Broadcasting; Impromptu Speaking, Programmed Oral Interpretation and Individual Public Debate Association (IPDA) Speaker; was co-champion in IPDA Debate; was second in Rhetorical Criticism, and placed third in Dramatic Interpretation.

“Our hard work is a compilation of what we have been working for since our program was revived in 2011,” Ledford said. “Our head coach, Danny Ray, has put in an unfathomable amount of effort, especially when he recruited two nationally ranked graduate assistant coaches (Deion Hawkins and Nicholas Brebhan) in fall 2013 to join our program; their work laid the foundation for the success you see today.”

Ledford said she and her teammates are well prepared for the nationals.

“I practice every day,” she said. “Competitive speaking is like any other competitive event at the college level. We have team practice for two hours every week, I have at least four hours of individualized coaching every week, and I work on my own approximately three to five hours per week, perfecting every speech that I’ve prepared. I video myself, I perfect the inflection of every word, and I even have practice debate rounds with other members on the team.”

Several other members of the Thundering Word also performed well in the state tournament. They included:

Alyssa Hager, a sophomore Communication Studies major from West Hamlin, who won championships in Poetry Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation and Improvisational Duo with Matt Osteen. She was second in Pentathlon and Persuasive Speaking, and third in Prose Interpretation and Broadcasting.

Osteen, a Communication Studies major from Jefferson, who won championships in Extemporaneous Speaking and in Improvisational Duo with Hager; was co-champion in IPDA Debate; second-place speaker in IPDA Debate; took second place in After-Dinner Speaking, and placed third in Pentathlon and Rhetorical Criticism.

Juliet Djietror, a senior biomedical sciences (Pre-Med) major from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, who won championships in After-Dinner Speaking and in Duo with DeVan Sample; was second in Prose Interpretation, third in Persuasive Speaking and fourth in Pentathlon.

Taryss Mandt, a junior Geology major from Alexandria, Virginia, who placed second in Informative Speaking. She was third in Poetry Interpretation; fourth in Prose Interpretation and fifth in Pentathlon Impromptu and Improvisational Duo with Djietror.

Garett Walker, a senior Spanish major from Shady Spring, who took third place in Programmed Oral Interpretation, Impromptu Speaking and After-Dinner Speaking; fourth-place in Rhetorical Criticism, and fifth in Informative Speaking and Extemporaneous Speaking.

Sample, a senior Honors English major from Martinsburg, who was the champion in Prose Interpretation and shared the Duo championship with Djieror. He also was second in Poetry Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation; placed third in Extemporaneous Speaking and Duo with Josh Steinle, and was a quarter-finalist in IPDA Debate.

Logan Spence, a sophomore Communication Studies major from Davie, Florida, who was the tournament champion in Rhetorical Criticism, placed fourth in Poetry Interpretation and Persuasive Speaking, was fifth in Broadcasting and seventh in Pentathlon.

Emily Caplinger, a freshman Honors Communication Studies major from Elkins, who was third with Sarah Hagan in Improvisational Duo and fourth in After-Dinner Speaking.

Hagan, a junior marketing major from Huntington, who was second in Impromptu Speaking and Broadcasting, and placed third with Caplinger in Improvisational Duo.

Steinle, a senior music major from Winfield, who was third in Duo with Sample; placed fourth in Dramatic Interpretation and fifth in Prose Interpretation.

Evan Robinson, a freshman Communication Studies major from Hurricane, who was fifth in After-Dinner Speaking.


Photo: Members of the Thundering Word show off their trophies after piling up 876 points in winning the state tournament for the fifth consecutive year. They are (front row, left to right) Jada Morton, Victoria Ledford, Alyssa Hager, Juliet Djietror and Taryss Mandt. (Back row, left to right) Matt Osteen, Garrett Walker, Emily Caplinger, DeVan Sample, Josh Steinle, Sarah Hagan, Logan Spence and Evan Robinson.