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Ole Miss Forensics Team attracts national attention


“Small but mighty” is the best way to describe the Ole Miss Forensics Team, which has recently earned more attention with its wins in Baton Rouge, La., and Memphis.

The team, coached by JoAnn Edwards and Debra Yancy, has traveled to debate tournaments from as far west as Portland, Ore., to as far east as Boston, Mass. Despite sometimes having to drive 13 or more hours and running off of nothing more than coffee, crackers and a prayer, the team seems to have great, unique experiences everywhere they go.

“When we went to Portland, we had a little time before the tournament, so we went downtown and ate at a great restaurant,” Edwards said. “And as we left we witnessed the very first Occupy Portland protest being held. We were enthralled. We witnessed the moment they began the demonstration. We were able to witness history happen. We were able to see something that we wouldn’t be able to see here.”

A few weeks ago, public policy major Evan Kirkham and political science major Austin “Woody” Wood were part of a tournament in Memphis called the “Great Debate” against Wiley College. Both team members said it was one of the most memorable experiences in their lives.

“We went to the Civil Rights Museum at the beginning of the day, and that was the sentiment we felt for the rest of the day,” Woody said. “It was a very unique experience for me — life-changing.”

Angelica Spence, an acting major, and Justin Charles, a musical theatre major who portrayed Judy Garland to win the national championship, agreed that they find themselves more confident and have overcome most of the fear to go out and face the competition.

“The nervousness you feel is good for you; it keeps you fresh and ready to go,” Charles said. “It provides energy.”

The forensics team is a diverse group. Anyone willing to put forth the required effort can join.

“You have to learn how to support one another,” Edwards said. “While it is an individual sport, the beauty of it is that you have a team that has your back. You are brilliant not just because you are good at it, but because you have a team of people wanting you to be good at it and (who) will do everything in their power to make you good. And that’s where the team effort comes in.”

Students interested in the forensics team can attend a forum April 16.