The George Mason University forensics team placed first at one of the nation’s largest forensics tournaments in Austin, Texas. Bradley University of Peoria, Ill., and the University of Texas at Austin jointly held the tournament, called Hell Froze Over, on Jan. 14–15 in Austin.

The name of the tournament refers to the traditional rivalry between the schools that host it each year. According to Peter Pober, director of forensics, the tournament featured 17 of the top 20 forensics programs in the nation, making for an extremely competitive weekend.

The competition was two days long, and it featured a number of events, including speeches, performances and monologues. The topics that were covered at HFO encompassed national and global issues ranging from American foreign policy toward Iran to the War on Drugs. Participants were allowed to choose which topic they wanted to present, but they were required to conduct an extensive amount of research before heading to the competition last month.

Forensics teams view the HFO tournament as a warm-up for the national competition. This year, Mason’s team had to prepare intensely and arrived on campus one week before leaving. Describing the preparation for the tournament, co-captain Nick Cox, senior health science major, discussed the problem of getting the team in sync following winter break. “One of the biggest challenges that wasn’t really unique to our team but was happening [to teams] around the nation was coming back from winter break,” Cox said. “We practiced for a week by ourselves while campus was empty to get our speeches together.”

However, Cox and co-captain Michael Scott, junior geography major, also noted that coming back early worked to the advantage of the team. “One of our advantages was that we did show up a week early to start working hard on everything we had. We even showed up in Texas a day early and got a feel for the campus and the rooms we were going to be in,” Scott said.

Members of the team representing Mason garnered numerous awards for making it to the final or semi-final rounds of the tournament. Bria Woodyard, freshman environmental and sustainability studies major, made it to the final round and placed second in of one of the more difficult events of the tournament, the Communication-Analysis event. Communication-Analysis involves studying a particular communication, such as a protest, and utilizing published methods to deliver an effective analysis of the effects of that particular protest or event. Becoming a finalist in this event is rare for a first-year student. “It was just a lot of me getting help from my teammates,” Woodyard said. “[Communication-Analysis] was one of the tougher events [of the tournament], but I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do it!’”