Texas Speech Wins 2023 AFA National Speech Championship

Photo of Texas Speech Team after receiving the 2023 national championship

Team wins the 2023 American Forensic Association national team title

The University of Texas Speech Team, housed in the Department of Communication Studies, travelled to California's Santa Ana College on March 30-April 3, where they were once again awarded the overall NATIONAL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP by the American Forensic Association. This was the second year in a row and 9th time overall that the program has won the national team title.

The team amassed a final point total of 450 points to outpace an exceptional George Mason University team, who was second with 414 points. Illinois State University (318), Eastern Michigan University (295) and Bradley University (289) rounded out the top 5, with the University of Alabama (272), University of Illinois at Chicago (251), Lewis & Clark (244), the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (189.5), and Tennessee State University (152) finishing out the top 10.

Junior Valeria Najera won the individual national title in Communication Analysis, Sophomore Kaylee Frazier was crowned national champion in Dramatic Interpretation, and sophomore Patrick Pham won the national title in Prose Interpretation.

Junior Fernando Cereceres was recognized as the 2nd overall speaker at the contest, along with Senior René Otero (12th) and Junior Kyle Ahern (18th) also recognized in the top 20 overall standings.

Team co-director and doctoral student Eva Margarita was recognized with the AFA Outstanding New Forensics Coach Award, the 4th time a UT coach has been honored with that title.

In addition to Margarita, the team is directed by Communication Studies professor Randy Cox and coached by LBJ graduate student Clay Parker, and UT alumni Erin Swearingen, Katayoun Khalilian, Evan Ortiz, and Karon Bowers.

Individual national finalists include the following students:

Valeria Najera: National Champion - Communication Analysis
Kaylee Frazier: National Champion - Dramatic Interpretation
Patrick Pham: National Champion - Prose Interpretation
René Otero: 2nd place - Impromptu Speaking
Fernando Cereceres: 3rd place, Program Oral Interpretation
Kai Solis and René Otero: 4th place - Duo Interpretation
Fernando Cereceres: 4th place, Prose Interpretation
Rene Otero: 5th place - Extemporaneous Speaking
Jennifer Gonzalez: 6th place - Poetry Interpretation
Kyle Ahern: 6th place, Prose Interpretation

For complete details of individual awards and accomplishments, see the website:

Additional Awards

National Semi-finalists (top 12 nationally):

Alexis Alvarado - After Dinner Speaking
Carli Hall - Dramatic Interpretation
Fernando Cereceres - Dramatic Interpretation
Ishika Bhasin - Extemporaneous Speaking
Carli Hall – Informative Speaking
Fernando Cereceres – Informative Speaking
David Cervantes – Persuasive Speaking
Kyle Ahern -Poetry Interpretation
Kyle Ahern - Program Oral Interpretation
Kevin Ahern - Prose Interpretation
Valeria Najera – Prose Interpretation

National Quarter-finalists (top 24 nationally):

Areesha Rahman - After Dinner Speaking
Jennifer Gonzalez - After Dinner Speaking
Alexis Alvarado - Communication Analysis
Hiba Faruqi- Communication Analysis
Mercer Schulte- Communication Analysis
Kevin Ahern - Dramatic Interpretation
Carlli Hall and Kevin Ahern - Duo Interpretation
Fernando Cereceres and Valeria Najera- Duo Interpretation
Kevin Ahern and Kyle Ahern- Duo Interpretation
Hiba Faruqi - Extemporaneous Speaking
Hiba Faruqi - Impromptu Speaking
Krystal Perez - Persuasive Speaking
Fernando Cereceres - Poetry Interpretation
Patrick Pham - Poetry Interpretation
Krystal Perez - Prose Interpretation


Photo of award winners in Communication Analysis
Photos by Clay Parker

Team captain Valeria Najera wins the 2023 national title in Communication Analysis, escorted by teammates Alexis Alvarado and Hiba Faruqi.

Photo of award winner in Prose Interpretation

Patrick Pham announced as the 2023 National Champion in Prose Interpretation.

Photo of student receiving award for Dramatic Interpretation

Kaylee Frazier being awarded the 2023 National Championship in Dramatic Interpretation.

Photo of Eva Margarita after receiving a coaching award

Eva Margarita was recognized as the 2023 Outstanding Young Forensics Coach by the American Forensic Association.