James Seifert ’11 placed an exclamation point on his remarkable season in June in Dallas, Texas, reaching finals in Dramatic Interpretation of Literature at the National Forensic League National Championship Tournament. Having already made history as the first Harker student to qualify for NFL Nationals in a speech event, he advanced through all 13 rounds of competition to claim fourth place among the 236 students competing in Dramatic Interpretation.
Since last September Seifert has been on a competitive trajectory that suggested such an accomplishment was possible. He began his season by winning the Wake Forest University tournament, then followed that result with third place honors at Stanford University and another championship at the UC Berkeley tournament, the largest invitational in the nation. He also qualified for the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament, reaching the octafinal round (top 56) at that tournament in Washington, D.C., over Memorial Day weekend.
Competition is always fierce at NFL Nationals. Seifert traveled with his coach, Jonathan Peele, to the tournament on June 12. He progressed through six preliminary rounds and six elimination rounds before reaching the final round, held on stage before an audience of 3,400 attendees and several thousand more watching the streaming broadcast on the NFL’s website. All 236 of the competitors Seifert faced were already champions in their own right, having qualified for NFL Nationals by being among the top finishers in the NFL’s 107 district qualifying tournaments.
His finish represented the school’s best showing at NFL Nationals since 2008, when Carol Green coached Stephanie Benedict ’08 to sixth place in the Congressional Debate Senate chamber and the team of Kaavya Gowda ’08 and Kelsey Hilbrich ’09 to seventh place in Public Forum Debate. “Our NFL district has such stiff competition from programs like Bellarmine and Leland that even qualifying for NFL Nationals is a tremendous accomplishment. I am proud that James was my first qualifier at Harker and converted his opportunity into such a tremendous finish,” said Peele, who has now coached 31 students to the tournament in his 11-year career.
Seifert performed selections from “I Am My Own Wife” by Doug Wright this season for competition. “Next year as a Stanford freshman he will likely remain involved with our team as a coach and judge, so James can put his expertise to use for our growing group of young forensics students,” added Peele. “We’ll use the experience of this past week in Dallas to motivate our team for years to come.”