COOS BAY — One of the many goals for the Marshfield High School Speech and Debate team this season was to go to New Mexico — the sight of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament.
While in-person version of the tournament had to be canceled due to COVID-19, 12 students from Marshfield qualified for the adapted online version of this competition that will take place from June 15 to June 20.
“They’re learning how to present themselves on video and through recordings which is something that is super difficult because they don’t have the audience. They’re not allowed to have an audience when they’re doing their recordings and they’re learning how to debate with each other without being in the same room. So they’re having to practice that and how to use a different formal in order to debate together,” said head coach Kayla Crook, who was named South Oregon NDSA coach of the year.
“It’s disappointing not traveling to Albuquerque, but this is that is going to change the way speech and debate is done and how it can be accessed.”
To qualify for Nationals there was an application process that looked at how students had done this year taking into account tournament scores, points earned and if individuals had previous experience at Nationals.
The 12 Marshfield students who qualified for nationals are Brianna Giacomini (Dramatic Interpretation), Bella Sperling (Dramatic Interpretation), Kaylin Dea (Humorous Interpretation), Brandon Arreola-Soto (Humorous Interpretation), Aryana Mill (Program Oral Interpretation), Madeline Deleon (Informative Speaking), Conor Heckard (United States Extemporaneous Speaking), Cameron Miller (Congress: House of Representatives), Joshua Giacomini and Lucas Stephens (Public Forum Debate), Titus Simon (World Schools Debate) and Itzel Ramirez (World Schools Debate).
In the new format, students competing in Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Program Oral Interpretation and Informative Speaking will record videos of their performances while those in the debate categories will be competing live online.
Senior Brianna Giacomini said she has been getting used to not having an audience.
“Well it’s definitely not ideal. One of the most important aspects of any event in Speech and Debate is being able to connect with your judges and your audience and your piece in person,” she said. “My best performances have been when I’m able to give all that I can emotionally into my character and being able to see that emotion and energy reflected in the faces of the audience back at me.”
Giacomini has fed on the emotion of an audience when performing “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion. In this 10-minute piece, Giacomini delves into ideas surrounding how both personal and universal the feeling of grief can be.
“With the tournament being online with the recording, that factor to be able to personally connect with the judges — it’s taken away and that’s one of the things that I’m not really looking forward to because I would always rely on that nervousness,” she said.
“We’re definitely trying to make the best of it. Definitely not ideal, but it’s for the seniors that are going. This is our last hurrah of speech and debate and so we’re going to make the most of it as much as we can.”
Two students on the Marshfield team — Ramirez and Simon — will be competing in the World School Debate event. To make it in this event, students were selected by coaches around the region and were then divided onto two different teams that will represent Southern Oregon.
“It’s been a little rough,” said Ramirez of adjusting to both debating through a computer and getting used to working with students from other schools.
“I have a team member (Simon) who is also going and we both just get together on a call and bounce ideas off of each other and I really like doing that one-on-one thing because then I can just get out all my dumb ideas and just get to say whatever I want at that moment. He just tells me, okay that’s dumb, don’t say that, and then we come up with a different way to say it.”
But as Ramirez gets used to the intricacies of the new format, she is thrilled to be a part of this Marshfield team that qualified a school-record amount of students to Nationals.
“It’s amazing. We probably wish we could have gone (to Albuquerque) but it’s one of my biggest accomplishments on the team and in general. Speech and debate has kind of taken over my life for the past four years and I think I could say the same,” said Ramirez.
“It’s so time consuming and to see the payoff of your hard work, it’s amazing. I don’t know how else to describe it.”