Hundreds of high school students showcase their skills at VU Trailblazer Speech Tournament

Participants from the VU Trailblazer Speech Tournament taking a photo together.

February 13, 2024

VINCENNES, Ind. – Vincennes University was alive with the energy of passionate young speakers showcasing their oratory skills and eloquence in a series of engaging competition rounds at the Vincennes University Trailblazer Speech Tournament.

The Vincennes Campus was buzzing on Saturday, Feb. 10, with the excitement of 200 students representing 13 high schools in a tournament designed to provide an exceptional competition experience. It served as a platform for students to sharpen their communication skills and build connections with peers who share their enthusiasm for public speaking.

According to Indiana Schools Speech and Debate Association Section 7 Chair and Evansville Memorial High School Speech Team Coach Tony Fehrenbacher, “Competitive high school speech and debate in Southern Indiana is growing rapidly. In fact, our section experienced the largest growth rate in Indiana in 2022-2023. So, Section 7 did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity that Vincennes University presented us – a chance to showcase our talented speakers to the rest of Indiana in our own backyard.”

The Trailblazer Speech Tournament mainly included high school speech teams from Section 7, which consists of programs from Monroe, Dubois, Warrick, Vanderburgh, and Posey counties. Additionally, the tournament drew teams from sections around the Indianapolis and Fishers areas.

The Signature School, Fishers, Evansville Memorial High School, Ben Davis Speech, and Evansville Mater Dei High School made up the team sweepstakes top five.

Fehrenbacher said, “Vincennes University spared no expense or effort in rolling out the proverbial red carpet for high school speakers across Indiana. Our students experienced first-hand what it is like to compete on a beautiful college campus in front of experienced judges, including college professors. Where else could they get that kind of an opportunity? The tournament was such a smashing success that coaches from teams outside of Section 7 - teams that traveled multiple hours away from Vincennes - have promised to return and have already begun encouraging teams in their section to make the trip to Vincennes University for the 2024-2025 season. Now that the word is out, Vincennes University should be prepared to expect to see a sharp increase in the number of high school speakers on campus next year! We simply cannot thank Vincennes University enough for this amazing experience.”


The College of Social Science, Performing Arts, and Communication's successful hosting of the inaugural speech tournament signals a fresh dedication to promoting communication proficiency in youths.

Competitors prep between rounds in a VU classroom.“VU takes great pride in fostering an environment where young minds can thrive,” VU Associate Professor of Communication Ann Hefner said. “The tournament's success underscores VU’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of leaders.”

Communication education benefits students in all areas of their lives. The experience of preparing speeches, articulating their ideas effectively, engaging with diverse audiences, and receiving constructive feedback helps students develop crucial communication competencies that will serve them well in their future careers.

VU offers degrees in BroadcastingPublic RelationsJournalism, and Communication Studies, all of which emphasize the importance of substantial speaking skills. These programs prepare students for careers where effective communication is essential, whether they are delivering news broadcasts, managing public relations, or analyzing communication strategies. Hosting a speech tournament provides an invaluable opportunity for students to practice and improve their speaking abilities in a competitive yet supportive environment.


Amidst the eloquent speeches, the VU Communication faculty played pivotal roles in ensuring the smooth execution of the tournament. As judges, they leveraged their expert knowledge as contestants navigated through rounds of intense competition. The VU faculty judges have advanced degrees in communication, and they've taught public speaking at the college level for many years. Additionally, they have acted as judges for other speech and speech-related competitions.

Competitors hang out in Jefferson Student Union.According to VU College of Social Science, Performing Arts, and Communication Dean Dr. Cynthia Ragle, “The VU Trailblazer Speech Tournament showcased the talent and dedication of young individuals from across Indiana as they delivered dynamic speeches on diverse topics. VU is thrilled to have hosted a vibrant speech tournament, and we wish all the participants the very best in their future endeavors. We are confident in their ability to apply the communication honed during the competition to achieve success in their academic and professional pursuits.”

See VU Trailblazer Speech Tournament results:

See the VU Trailblazer Speech Tournament photo gallery:

# # #