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GBHS Forensic Team qualifies three to Nationals
Great Bend High School forensic team members include, clockwise from top left: Katria Kindscher, Maddix Pokorski, Malachi Wasson, Isaiah Smith and Xanna Smith.

Three members of the Great Bend High School’s Forensics Team – juniors Isaiah Smith and Malachi Wasson and sophomore Xanna Smith – have qualified for the National Speech and Debate Tournament.   

Isaiah Smith placed 3rd in Original Oratory at the district qualifier this past Saturday to earn his spot. His speech encourages the audience to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Xanna Smith qualified for nationals by placing 4th in Informative Speaking with a speech on Disneyland.

Wasson was chosen to be part of the West Kansas World School’s Debate Team at nationals. He will join a delegation of students from other schools in our district to represent Kansas. 

Despite the meets being virtual, qualifying for Nationals was still similar to previous years. The students performed in three preliminary rounds, semifinals and finals to earn their spot. Many of the other members of the team had outstanding performances at the district tournament as well. 

Sophomores Katria Kindscher and Maddix Pokorski were both first alternates to nationals in their divisions. Kindscher earned 5th place in Program of Oral Interpretation and Pokorski placed 4th in International Extemp. Wasson also finished 5th in Original Oratory. Dinah Newman and Raven Pafford-Marcum also earned points for the Great Bend Panthers.

This will not be the first time that Malachi and Isaiah have competed at the national level. They were chosen last spring to represent the West Kansas District at last summer’s first-ever virtual national tournament. For the national tournament in 2020, the team submitted video performances for judging. This year, our students will be getting ready for the summer’s competition where the contestants will perform live for the judges over a Zoom-like platform.

These live virtual performances will bring another level of challenge to the competitors, head coach Kim Heath said.

“They won’t be able to practice until they get that ‘perfect’ performance and because it will be live, we will need to make sure the audio and visual signals line up,” Heath said. “All school year our team members have had to talk to a camera, and we have had to work through various technology issues. While it is difficult to perform if the audience is not there for feedback, our students have learned how to adapt to a whole new way of communicating. For example, Xanna reconfigured her visual aids for her speech so that they could be seen more easily by the judges.”

The students will spend the next month and a half refining and perfecting their performances before they compete with over 4,500 students from across the country. The National Speech and Debate Association Tournament, the largest academic competition in the world, will be held during the third week of June 2021.