Published online: March 8, 2015 Print: March 9, 2015
POULSBO — Halfway through the speech and debate season, Amanda Bannon and Conrad Schauer had to change their speech duo.
Their 10-minute piece from the play “The Bear” by Anton Chekhov — which they had practiced all summer — wasn’t a big hit with judges and wasn’t making it to finals in tournaments.
The North Kitsap High School seniors ditched “The Bear” for a piece from “The Princess Bride” and quickly qualified for the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions, a speech-only tournament.
It is the first time in the decadeslong history of the team that any students have qualified for the national tournament, which is in May in Lincoln, Nebraska. It has been at least six years since an NK student has qualified for the National Forensics League’s tournament, which has both speech and debate events, said coach Cesar Bernal.
The speech portion of speech and debate is more of a performance piece, dramatic or humorous, that can be for solos or duos.
“I think there’s a really common misconception about debate,” junior Carmen Adams said. “That it’s just two people standing there arguing with each other, but what I think a lot of people don’t realize is that there are a lot more events.”
Along with speech events, there are public forum debates, where four people debate, and congressional debate.
The National Forensics League’s qualifying tournament — that has debate and speech events — was this weekend in Snohomish, where four NK students competed. Last year, the team sent only one student to the qualifying tournament.
Bannon and Schauer were among this year’s students who had to place first or second in their events to go to the national tournament this June in Dallas.
On Saturday, Schauer qualified for humorous interpretation, Bannon was named second alternate for dramatic interpretation and the pair earned second alternate for duo.
To help cover costs for the event, they have started an online fundraising site.
To earn a place at the national speech-only tournament, Bannon and Schauer had to place in the top three of at least two of the speech qualifying tournaments. After changing their piece, there were only two speech qualifying tournaments for the national event.
“It’s a big deal to even be a finalist in one tournament,” Bannon said. “But to be able to do it in two tournaments, where there are about 40 schools attending, is really challenging.”
The challenge and competition is what hooked senior Max Townsend during his sophomore year, although he wished he would have started as a freshman, he said.
Townsend and partner Catherine Massie competed this weekend in the national qualifying tournament.
Besides being a fun competition, it’s a great résumé booster when apply for college scholarships, said senior Alexander Palmer, a first-year debater.
“I see it as profitable for myself,” he said. “My family can’t really afford that much for college. … It opens up so many doors to scholarships.”
Although there are fees for joining the team, like other sports or clubs, earning one $1,000 scholarship can more than up for the fees, Palmer said.
As more students see the benefits of joining the speech and debate team, the NK team has grown from 10 students last year to about 25 this year.
“With recruiting, we should have a 34-man team next year,” Bernal said.
Even as the team grows and becomes more competitive, Bernal doesn’t force students to compete in events they don’t want to enter just for the sake of filling spots and increasing the team’s chance of qualify for tournaments.
“It’s more of a family-type atmosphere,” he said. “I show up, and I am here to facilitate and support.”