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Four Panthers earn spots at National Speech and Debate
Patrick Heath and Bayle Sandy
Patrick Heath and Bayle Sandy

On Friday, May 1, the West Kansas District of the National Speech and Debate Association announced those chosen to represent the district at the first-ever virtual NSDA tournament. The national tournament will be held online in mid-June rather than in person in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Four Great Bend High School students were chosen for his honor.  

In a live Zoom awards ceremony, it was announced that senior Patrick Heath will return to nationals for the third time in Informative Speaking. Heath’s speech this year discusses the history of our nation’s colleges and universities and examines their impact on the world.

GBHS forensic coach Kim Heath said she is confident that Patrick will push himself to perfect his performance and will represent West Kansas well.

“He has the speech, the poise, the determination and the drive to make it happen,” she said. “Patrick’s acting skills shine in his speaking style, and his research and organization are spot on.” He also designed the awesome visual aids for his speeches.  

Also returning to national competition is senior Bayle Sandy in Dramatic Interpretation. She read and cut the memoir entitled “The Only Girl in the World,” which follows the childhood of Maude Julien. Sandy brought to life the story of an imprisoned young girl who escapes her trauma through incredible inner-strength.

Dramatic interpretation has been Bayle’s love since her freshman year because it allows her to tell stories and connect with her audiences, Heath said. “Bayle will throw her heart into making sure that her characters come to life so that she may deliver the best possible performance.”

Making their debut in national competition will be the sophomore duo of Isaiah Smith and Malachi Wasson. They finished seventh last year at district competition and had much success this year before their season was cut short. Their Duo Interpretation is a humorous cutting from “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Their facial expressions and physical performance bring both their characters and the story to life.

“There is something to be said for unrestrained joy and high energy colliding with dedication and hard work,” their coach said. “They work constantly and are creative, coachable and fearless. I am sure they will represent GBHS and our district well.”  

These four competitors were selected based on their success throughout the 2020 season. They will compete through an online platform June 15-20. The tournament will run on specialized tabulation software and Zoom. 

Added event for 2020

In addition to the regular national competition, NSDA has added a new event this year to help bring closure for senior forensics students in this time of pandemic. Many high school seniors have seen their final chances to compete unexpectedly canceled. This Senior Open event will allow all member seniors who have not qualified to the national tournament to participate as a forensics student one last time.

GBHS student Hayden Honomichl has been selected to perform his Dramatic Interpretation.

Students will submit recorded performances of their speech events.

“The students will have to learn to cope with a huge change to the usual format, but we are so grateful that NSDA has made it possible for students to still compete in this culminating, prestigious and rigorous tournament,” Heath said. 

“The opportunity for national travel is a definite loss for the team, but the purpose of forensics is to have scholarly conversations with other competitive individuals. These students are going to be able to showcase their talents and build their voice in the virtual world this summer.”

Other awards

Several other awards were presented during the live Zoom awards show. NSDA has named GBHS senior Daniel Abbott as an Academic All-American for the 2019-2020 school year. In order to receive the award, students must earn the degree of Superior Distinction in the NSDA, maintain at least a 3.7 grade-point average, and score at least a 27 on the ACT.

“Daniel is an excellent student and a well-rounded leader,” coach Heath said. “He has been a blessing to have in our program.” Abbott joins Patrick Heath and Bayle Sandy as Academic All-Americans from GBHS.

Coach, Volunteer of the Year

Kim Heath was named this year’s West Kansas NSDA Coach of the Year. The West Kansas district chair said Heath, “is the embodiment of caring, compassionate, intelligent, and hardworking coaching. She has had tremendous success coaching some of the finest competitors in the round, and in the finest humans in life.”  

“I am greatly honored and humbled by the award,” Heath said in her acceptance speech. “I have been very fortunate to get to work with such talented and committed students, and they have made my job look easy.”

Finally, Cindy Sandy was recognized as West Kansas NSDA Volunteer of the Year. Heath wrote in her letter of nomination, “Cindy has made a tremendous impact on the Panther debate and speech program and has served as judge, ran our hospitality room and organized a parent support group for the team. I am very grateful for her contributions.”