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GBHS speech team qualifies three for nationals
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Jalyn Lear, Patrick Heath and Bayle Sandy, pictured with GBHS forensics coach Kim Heath, qualified for the NSDA national tournament in Dallas in June.

The Great Bend High School Forensics Team qualified three students for the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament in Dallas, Texas, this June.  

The team traveled to the NSDA qualifying tournament in Newton. The tournament began by recognizing students that had earned 1,500 honor points in the NSDA. Juniors Bayle Sandy and Patrick Heath and Senior Geoffrey Pafford achieved this level of Premier Distinction. 

Following the opening ceremony Friday afternoon, the students competed in three rounds of competition. They traveled home to Great Bend only to return to Newton early the next morning for one more preliminary round, semi-finals and finals.

Qualifying for nationals in Program of Oral Interpretation (POI) was senior Jalyn Lear.

“She is a top-notch performer with natural acting talents,” GBHS coach Kim Heath said. “Jalyn develops her characters and builds the emotion of her selections with expert skill.”

“As I come to the end of my high school career, I find that competitive speech has been the root of my most important accomplishments,” Lear said. “The pride began with my first competition and has come all the way to being a National qualifier.” Her program entitled “Whose Choice?” confronts pressures being thrown at young women by weaving together a short story, poetry, dramas and news articles.

In addition to the POI, Lear qualified for nationals in Dramatic Interpretation by placing third. However, she can only select one event to compete in at nationals.  

Patrick Heath, a junior, qualified for nationals for the second year in a row in Informative Speaking by placing second. His speech focuses on his ancestors, Eng and Chang Bunker. In the speech, Heath draws a comparison between the struggles our country is currently facing and the lives of the original Siamese twins.

“Qualifying for nationals makes me feel like all the hard work of this season has finally paid off,” he said. “Every practice was worth it.”

By the end of the tournament, Heath found himself double-qualified for nationals when he earned 2nd place in Humorous Interpretation. He has chosen to perform his Informative at the NSDA National Tournament. “I feel a personal connection to my Informative, and I’m glad to be given the opportunity to share it with more people this summer in Dallas,” he said.

“Patrick qualifying for nationals in both an acting and a speaking event is evidence to how multi-talented he is as a performer,” coach Kim Health said. 

The third national qualifier is Bayle Sandy, a junior, in Dramatic Interpretation. Sandy performs a piece entitled “Spoonface Steinberg” that brings to life a 7-year-old autistic child as she deals with her imminent death.

“Bayle has worked hours on the small nuisances of Spoonface,” coach Heath said. “She is committed to portraying not just a sad story, but a believable character that her audience becomes attached to.”

“(Qualifying for nationals) has been a goal of mine for the past three years of my speech and debate career,” Sandy said. “It is nice to know that my hard work has finally paid off. The national tournament will be an outstanding learning experience, and I cannot wait to compete for my district. It will be a once in a lifetime experience that I will not forget.”

Other awards

Also receiving a medal at the qualifier was freshman Isaiah Smith, with a 5th place in Humorous Interpretation. Other students narrowly missed breaking into elimination rounds. Malachi Wasson was 7th place in Humorous Interpretation, Wasson and Smith placed 7th in Duo interpretation, and Sandy was 7th in Original Oration. Juniors Daniel Abbott and CJ Gibson were competitive in both POI and Informative Speaking.

The Panther forensics team also had several young members that entered the tournament to gain experience, learn more about the qualifying tournament and support their team. The novice squad was led by senior Robby Brining and also consisted of freshmen Dalton Ruble, Tia Mitchell, Skylar Fletcher, Natalie Bayona and Citraly Torres.  “Having the younger students at the tournament made the experienced students work harder,” the coach said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for GBHS with such a talented squad.”

The regular season ended last Monday with a last chance qualifier tournament in Valley Center. Senior Robby Brining brought home the gold for Original Oratory.  

The varsity national qualifiers traveled to Lawrence on Saturday for the “Forensics Coaches’ Invitational.” The tournament promised to be an excellent warm-up for the State Championship tournament on May 4.