By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – You will not see coach Kathy Tar’s 43-member team practicing at a gym, rink or athletic field, but they have scored enough points to win three consecutive state titles.
Divine Child High School’s forensics team earned the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association Individual Events Class B Team State Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and they hope to earn a fourth at the state finals May 1 and 2 at Oakland University.
Forensics, the study and art of speech and debate, as opposed to the science and technology used to investigate crimes, focuses on public address and interpretative events.
The MIFA individual events competition includes 12 categories: Broadcasting, extemporaneous, impromptu, informative, oratory, sales, dramatic interpretation, duo, multiple, poetry, prose and storytelling.
In addition, each year ninth- and 10th-grade students compete in one public address and one interpretive event held for their grade level.
Students in Class B, C, and D compete together, with team results separated in two classes, B, and C-D. Judging at the Class A level is separate.
For more information, go to themifa.org or speechanddebate.org/competitionevents.
Assistant coach Laura Miller said team members’ award-winning speaking ability takes on added significance considering a recent Gallop poll cited that 85 percent of American adults surveyed list speaking in public as their greatest fear.
Tar said another challenge of forensics is the extreme subjectivity of the judging process.
“It’s not based on how fast you run an event or how many baskets or goals you score but very subjective standards,” Tar said, “similar to and consistent with judging diving, gymnastic events, and men and women’s figure skating, to name a few.
“It is not an exact measurement of skills or a tabulation of standard points or time limits. It is extremely subjective in the eye of the beholder.”
Tar said another challenge of forensics is the size of the tournaments. Instead of one school competing against another, team members compete against challengers from dozens of schools. A student who makes it to a final round with the top six students may have surpassed 40 other competitors.
Part of a forensic team’s appeal is its ability to build self-confidence, Tar said. Students also have received forensic-based college scholarships.
“Forensics challenges you to be competitive and to excel in your chosen category,” Tar said. “It’s fun, it stimulates your creativity, and it builds writing and speaking skills that you can use for the rest of your life in any career path you chose.”
Freshman Rose Kormos, 15, of Dearborn joined the forensics team to overcome a fear of public speaking.
“I had to give a presentation at the end of eighth grade year, and I had to leave the room because I got sick,” Kormos said. “But forensics this year helped me overcome that.
It’s an amazing way to overcome fears and it’s an amazing way to connect with so many people, both people in the audience and people from different schools.”
Kormos, who competes in the oratory category, said she likes speaking about a specific problem, and telling people how they can be part of the solution.
She spoke about child laundering, which is illegal, and fraudulent foreign adoption, a topic that hits close to home, since her parents adopted her from Guatemala.
“It is easier for me to talk about that, than memorize what someone else has written,” Kormos said.
Sophomore Noah Wisniewski, 15, of Dearborn, competes in the “multiple” category, in which students perform up to 10 minutes of a play, short story or other published work. The category challenges students’ acting ability, without props or costumes. Wisniewski’s group did an edited selection from “Into the Woods,” which he said strengthens his acting ability.
“I wanted to get more confident with myself as an actor, and help with characterization,” Wisniewski said. “If I do other plays and musicals in the summer, I will be more confident in myself.”
Junior Lia Bertucci, 16, of Dearborn, who also acts, has competed in the storytelling category for the past three years.
She was not aware of the storytelling category until she saw a performance at forensic team auditions when she was a freshman, and she knew it was her calling.
“I think storytelling is the most fun because you get to be each character, and do a different voice,” she said. “And even though all the interpretive categories do different voices, storytelling has the most outlandish, crazy voices, and you get to have the most fun with the different characters.”
She said she has gained valuable forensic and acting experience during the past three years.
“Onstage I’ve noticed it’s much easier for me to react to things and stuff,” she said. “Having been 11 characters (in storytelling), one (in a play) seems so easy.”
Her sister Grace, 14, a freshman, said she enjoys working with, and receiving advice and coaching from others in the “multiple” category as they perform a selection from “Into the Woods.”
She said she would also like to follow her sister’s lead, and try storytelling.
The time commitment required of forensics initially concerned her, until she decided the time investment was worth it.
“It helps you get into colleges,” she said. “It helps you in theater. You don’t even notice that you are getting better and better. I love giving speeches in class now.”
Sophomore Jacob Brenner, 16, from Dearborn Heights, competes in the impromptu category. He said he initially chose the category because it requires a minimal amount of work before forensic competitions.
“I really grew to start liking it because it really challenges your mind,” Brenner said. “And it makes you really think about what you are going to say.”
He said his parents would agree he is argumentative by nature, a trait that sometimes annoys his teachers, but he is good at proving a point.
“Even if I don’t pursue a career in law, it’s really helped me gain enough confidence to communicate my thoughts and my ideas,” Brenner said, “and that is really one of the most valuable tools you can have in any career.”