Great Bend’s Speech Team wrapped up its 2021-22 season with a strong showing at the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Tournament held during the week of June 11-17. Five Panthers represented GBHS at the national tournament. This was the largest group of students that Great Bend had qualified for the national tournament in several years. They joined nearly 5,000 other competitors in Louisville, Kentucky, to debate current events, voice their views, and share their stories.
Among the participants was freshman Darcy Feist in Original Oration. Her persuasive speech argued that competitive travel sports leagues can be very costly, place too much of a time commitment on families and cause burnout in young athletes. After she was eliminated from the oratory competition, Feist shared a prose interpretation entitled “Story on Page 6.” Feist was very excited about her nationals experience and said, “the competition gave me an opportunity to learn so many new things. Getting to hear people’s speeches from around the country gave me 10-minute insights into a lot of problems we are facing, and I saw a few amazing pieces I think I can try to find for next year in the prose category.”
GBHS Forensics Coach Kim Heath commented that Darcy “earned her spot on the national team through consistent goal setting, hard work and improvement. I can’t wait to watch her grow and succeed during these next three years.”
The Panthers entered two teams in Duo Interpretation. Sophomore Milena Carbajal and junior Alondra Alvarez performed a cutting from “The House on Mango.” The girls cut their selection from a series of vignettes to capture the theme of not letting the allure of growing up threaten true friendships. After they were eliminated from Duo Interpretation, Alvarez and Carbajal both entered the Original Spoken Word Poetry competition where they crafted emotional performances through the creative arrangement of words, rhythm and sound. Coach Heath described their performances as “absolutely beautiful” and praised Alondra and Milena’s commitment to their work.
Alvarez added, “Nationals was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had throughout all of high school. Milena and I worked very hard on our piece with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Heath. I am so glad we were able to see how it would do against some of the greatest actors in our nation. Competition was tough but I met some extremely talented people. I had a blast hanging out with my team and being able to enjoy an amazing week in Louisville.”
Recent 2022 graduates Isaiah Smith and Malachi Wasson presented a cutting from the play “Columbinus” to focus attention on the mental health crisis faced by America’s students and share their fear of violence following news of recent mass shootings. This was the pair’s third time competing at nationals, but the first time they were able to experience it in person. Despite facing tough competition, including students who placed last year and others who went on to compete in late elimination rounds this year, Smith and Wasson still performed very well. They earned several first place rankings and just missed breaking in the top 60 of 225 duo interpretations.
“The development of ‘Columbinus’ was an excellent capstone performance for these young men representing hours of hard work and analysis,” said Coach Heath.
Following elimination from Duo Interpretation, Smith entered extemporaneous debate where students debated in a one-on-one format with limited prep time to prepare for the topic they were to debate. Each round Smith debated a unique resolution and was given 30 minutes to prepare for the round. Smith was victorious in half of his debates.
“The opportunity to meet new people from across the country all sharing the same passion and love for forensics as I do was the best part of nationals,” he said.
Wasson entered Impromptu Speaking and Storytelling as his supplemental events. In Impromptu Speaking, Wasson broke into the first elimination round, which placed him in the top 120 out of almost 400 competitors. In Storytelling he shared the imaginative story of “Pecorino’s First Concert” and made it past the second elimination round and into the top 60 of 337 competitors. He noted that the moment “when the results finally came out for top 60 in storytelling and I saw my code was the most memorable of the whole tournament.”
“Isaiah and Malachi will be greatly missed,” shared Heath. “The most rewarding part of being their coach is seeing how they have grown over the last four years. In our program they each have developed grit, self-confidence and responsibility – all traits that will help them as they move on into college and life.”
Finally, during the Donus D. Roberts Diamond Assembly, Coach Heath was awarded her second diamond award from the National Speech and Debate Association. The two-diamond pin represents excellence and longevity with a minimum of 10 years of speech and debate coaching and 30,000 student points. Each point represents hours of dedication, service and practice with her students.
Coach Heath also shared that her team will soon begin preparing for the next season by analyzing the new debate topic. Next year’s debate resolution is focused on emerging technologies around the world, as well as the growing global geo-political crisis surrounding them. The official resolution reads as follows: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.
“Our future looks bright,” added Heath, “and I am excited to continue building on our success next year.”