APU's '16-17 forensics team.
APU's '16-17 forensics team.

APU Forensics Team Achieves National Recognition

by Evan R. Cain

“Why does cancer exist?” asked Sydney Folsom ’17, award-winning Lincoln-Douglas debater, acting as Dani, an 11-year-old girl battling leukemia.

“You know, kid, I don’t have an answer for you. Good and bad, courage and fear, joy and pain, they all exist. The trouble is, they sometimes get all mixed up in the same wrapper,” responded Nicholas Barajas ’18, award-winning platform speaker, acting as Raf, Dani’s imaginary guardian angel.

Folsom and Barajas, members of Azusa Pacific University’s forensics team, took on these roles as part of a Duo Interpretation competition, in which pairs of students perform selections from literature, movies, or plays. The partners selected Dani Girl, an off-Broadway play about a little girl who discovers hope despite her trials by using her imagination. Folsom and Barajas’ performance won fifth place at the 2016 Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association’s Fall Championships, one of the largest tournaments in Southern California.

APU’s 12-person team represented the university at 10 competitions throughout 2016-17 in California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona, 2 of which were national competitions. Competing against dozens of nationally ranked universities, APU’s forensics team beat the odds, bringing home sweeps trophies, earning national recognition, and scoring fourth among U.S. Christian colleges and universities.

The direction of lead coach Fernanda De La O was key to the team’s success. “At the beginning of this year, my goal was to help each student develop their arguments into something tenable,” said De La O. “Throughout their practices and performances, they learned to express concepts and objectives clearly, effectively, and persuasively.”

Attending Pi Kappa Delta nationals, hosted by the largest forensics organization in the United States, Isaac Lyles ’17, Lee Vaughn ’18, and Olivia Cate ’18 earned a total of six trophies. Lyles also ranked top novice in the country in Lincoln-Douglas debate at the National Christian College Forensics Association's Christian Nationals, competing against 78 schools and approximately 1,000 other students.

“Forensics trains you to speak in a very organized and efficient manner,” said Lyles. “Thinking on the spot, controlling your gestures and body movements, delivering your words clearly, these communication skills are crucial to everyday life.”

Lyles also addressed the ways in which forensics can challenge points of view. “I learned to speak on issues from multiple perspectives and broke out of my comfort zone. I interacted with many people from diverse backgrounds and had the opportunity to travel all over the country.”

De La O said she gains inspiration from witnessing her students’ growth. “Each member on our team has personal strengths and weaknesses. As we work together throughout the year, we compensate for any shortcomings, while capitalizing upon our strengths to achieve team goals.”

For interpretation coach Adriena Young, the most rewarding element of her work is being part of an open-minded group. “Forensics offers the unique opportunity to discuss different ideals in a safe environment,” she said. “Students can advocate for their passions, political and social, through debating, presenting, acting, and just being a part of a community. There is truly a place for everyone in forensics.”

Evan R. Cain '18 is a senior public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a biblical studies and humanities major in the Honors College.