It was a speech tournament so big, the officials took time during the awards ceremony to note that they processed more than 5,000 ballots while judging speeches.
Despite the competition, junior Mary Blendermann broke to the semifinals in the informative category for Hillsdale College’s speech team on Nov. 5th at the Norton Invitational at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Coach Matthew Warner said it was the fall semester’s biggest competition.
“Relative to the rest of our schedule, the Norton Invitational is one of the largest and most demanding tournaments we attend and no doubt the most challenging of the fall semester,” Blendermann said in an email. “The level of competition is extremely high and an enormous number of competitors attend, making it much more difficult to break to outrounds.”
But Blendermann did break to the outrounds with a speech on transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, a treatment for autism. She said her speech for this competition has remained mostly the same throughout the season.
“Recent research has demonstrated remarkable improvements in emotional processing in autistic people after undergoing TMS, which reorganizes neural communication by stimulating the brain with an electromagnetic field,” said Blendermann, who is a psychology major. “TMS is unique because it’s both nonmedicinal and noninvasive — the electromagnetic field is administered using a magnetic coil pressed against the skull — and it can be administered while the patient is fully conscious.”
All four Hillsdale team members performed in three categories each. In the persuasive category, junior Steven Custer performed a speech on abuse in the adult guardianship system, and sophomore Peter Seeley spoke on reforming the Transportation Security Administration’s no-fly list. Like Blendermann, freshman Nathaniel Turtel also competed in the informative category. The whole team competed in impromptu, but Blendermann spoke in the program of oral interpretation category, while the others participated in extemporaneous presentations.
“I really enjoyed competing at Norton because it provides an opportunity to measure your performance against the best competitors in the country,” Blendermann said. “It was really satisfying to advance to semifinals in that environment.”