Three Great Bend High School students competed at the 2019 National Speech & Debate Tournament held last week in Dallas. The entire week was a competitive and educationally valuable experience for graduated senior, Jalyn Lear, and Class of 2020 seniors, Patrick Heath and Bayle Sandy, said GBHS Forensics Coach Kim Heath. The National Speech and Debate Tournament is the largest academic competition in the world bringing together competitors who represent the top 4% of more than 150,000 student members at approximately 3,500 schools. It is estimated that more than 10,000 students, coaches and parents attended the tournament this year.
The students each qualified in a different forensics event. Lear competed in Program of Oral Interpretation while Heath spoke in Informative Speaking and Sandy performed in Dramatic Interpretation. They each had six different preliminary rounds over the course of Monday and Tuesday. The preliminary rounds were randomly preset, but Sandy was drawn to compete against both the eventual third-place finisher and the national champion. Lear and Heath also faced contenders that were in quarter- and semi-finals.
“Our students enjoyed watching the performance of top students from other states,” said Coach Heath.
“The main speaking events had approximately 240 exceptional competitors. Unfortunately, none of the GBHS students advanced to the top 60 for elimination rounds. (Patrick) Heath’s scores were significantly improved over his national performance last summer, and he narrowly missed breaking into the top 60.”
Each of the students chose Prose Interpretation as their supplemental event. They joined 362 other national qualifiers and began this competition on Wednesday morning. Sandy chose a serious piece, while Heath and Lear performed a humorous selections. Heath made it through the first two elimination rounds and was in the top 147. Lear and Sandy competed in three eliminations rounds and were in the top 82 of the nation before being knocked out of the competition.
The next day found the students in consolation events. Lear and Heath tried out Storytelling, while Sandy chose to compete in Impromptu Speaking. Lear led the team on Thursday by making it to the 4th round of competition before falling. She placed in the top 45 of 258 Storytelling entries. Once eliminated, the students had the opportunity to watch the national final rounds of competition.
“The tournament is filled with the best of the best and in each round our students were able to observe how forensics is performed throughout the country,” Coach Heath said. “As I watched our students face each new round, I began to see their confidence increase as they realized just how powerful their ability was to communicate complex information and dramatic emotions.”
This sentiment is also shared by actor Jared Padalecki, star of the hit television show, “Supernatural.” Padalecki attended the competition on Thursday and Friday as a special guest judge of the Duo Interpretation final round. Prior to being famous, he was the 1998 champion in Duo Interpretation. Before the final round, he congratulated the audience for participating in speech activities and qualifying for the national competition. “The artistic aspect of speech really helps prepare you for the world, and hopefully that builds a well-rounded person,” he said. “I think a life well-lived is one where you seek out knowledge and you seek out learning.”
Padalecki also explained how his forensics experience helped him learn to handle rejection.
“It can be more arduous, and it almost seems less glamorous on the outside but it teaches you so much about yourself on the inside,” Padalecki said. “Just the idea that you are tirelessly working to better yourselves and learn more about yourselves and about others at such a high level, is really impressive to me as a father of three.”
The National Speech and Debate tournament is touted as the biggest of its kind in the world, and is filled with thousands of dynamic and talented high school speech and debate students from all 50 states. This year GBHS celebrated its 35th year of qualifying students to the NSDA Tournament. Next summer, the National Speech & Debate Tournament will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.