Telling Stories That Matter through Speech and Debate

Belmont Speech and Debate Team with awards
College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Telling Stories That Matter through Speech and Debate

March 15, 2024 | by Ryleigh Green

Belmont's Speech and Debate Team Wins State and National Tournaments

Belmont’s Speech and Debate Team continued their successful season after competing in two distinguished tournaments: the Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) state tournament on Feb. 17-18 and the National Christian College Forensics Invitational (NCCFI), held March 7-9. The team was named overall tournament champions at each event, and many students walked away with individual state and national championship titles.  

Through participation in speech and debate, students gain important communication and interpersonal skills. Competitors grow as speakers, listeners and advocates. They learn how to effectively challenge the status quo and encourage others to go out and make change. Students also are met with viewpoints they may not agree with and learn how to defend their own positions and respectfully engage with alternative views. 

TIFA was a two-day event held three hours southeast in Cleveland, Tennessee. This is the sixth consecutive year that Belmont has been champion of the TIFA state tournament.   


Day One

Day one of the tournament was reserved for debate events. Belmont’s team of six debaters competed in five preliminary rounds, with most advancing to elimination rounds. Sophomore Lela Oliveira and freshman Abbie Cartwright were named co-champions of novice debate, and junior Ryleigh Green was named champion in varsity debate, with her final round debating the topic “Dolly Parton should run for governor.” With three champions, Belmont swept the competition. 

As alumni, the debate coaches understand the pressure that long debate days put on students. Debate director Rezi Manaj (Politics and Public Law ‘19, JD ‘22) described the tournament as a whirlwind.  

“Having so many students competing at such an important tournament always cranks the nerves for everyone involved,” he said.  

Coach Tyler Redmon (Political Science ‘21, MBA ‘23) can attest to the resiliency gained from the competitive environment, which often leads to rewarding outcomes for students during their time on the team and in the workforce upon graduating.  

“I’ve learned over my time coaching that each and every one of them can operate at an elite level, succeeding where others couldn’t,” said Redmon. “There is hardly a greater feeling than getting to see others succeed and knowing that you got to play a part in getting them there.” 

Day Two

The second day of the tournament focused on various speaking events, with Belmont’s team competing and placing in several.  

  • Interpretation events include Dramatic Interpretation (performance using dramatic text), Duo Interpretation (partner performance), Program of Oral Interpretation (performance using prose, poetry and/or drama) and Prose Interpretation (performance using prose text) 
  • Public Address events include After Dinner Speaking (satirical/humorous speech), Communication Analysis (evaluation of a communication event using rhetorical principles) and Informative Speaking (speech designed to inform or illustrate a topical subject) 
  • Limited Preparation events include Extemporaneous Speaking (30 minutes to prepare sources for a seven-minute speech around a central question) and Impromptu Speaking (two minutes to prepare sources for a five-minute speech around a central prompt) 

With steep competition, Belmont students continued to rise to the occasion, many winning high awards in each of their events.  

Senior Lauren Stanfill is primarily a debater and was named a state finalist in two speaking events: Extemporaneous and Impromptu. 

“The accomplishments of myself and my team overall at this tournament meant a lot to me,” said Stanfill. “I’m always excited to watch my friends and teammates succeed after working so hard, and I’m blessed to be able to contribute to our success overall.”

These wins are the culmination of a year’s worth of work and dedication put forth by team members. 


The team continued their winning streak over spring break at a three-day tournament hosted by Belmont, the National Christian College Forensics Invitational (NCCFI). Competing against students from across the country, the Belmont Speech and Debate Team was named overall champions. 

Events unique to the NCCFI include Homiletics (memorized speech in the style of a sermon) and Interpretation of Faith Literature (performance around a central religious theme). Both debate and individual events occurred each day, bringing 15 schools to Belmont for the competition, including Liberty University and Colorado Christian University.  

“Being state and national champions simply means that the stories we tell matter and stir something in others,” said senior Jasmine Pettus. “The main reason all of us work so hard is because we believe that sharing these narratives can change our society for the better, and all the trophies symbolize is that we’re on the path to doing just that.” 

This was the team’s last in-person tournament with both individual performers and debaters. The debate team will compete at the IPDA National Tournament at Mississippi State University in April, and the speech team will compete at the University of Chicago later this month. 

TIFA State Champions

  • Communication Analysis
  • Program of Oral Interpretation

  • Extemporaneous Speaking
  • Impromptu Speaking

NCCFI National Champions

  • Prose Interpretation

  • Dramatic Interpretation
  • Duo Interpretation (with Jasmine Pettus)
  • 2nd Top Speaker overall

  • Novice Informative Speaking

  • Duo Interpretation (with Alisa Osborne)

  • Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking

  • Interpretation of Faith Literature
  • Top Novice Speaker overall

  • Program of Oral Interpretation
  • 5th Novice Speaker overall

  • Novice After Dinner Speaking