Speech and Debate Team Bound for Yale

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Alyssa Royston

Christopher Lorde, senior, practices his speech in preparation for the Yale tournament.

The Speech and Debate team traveled to Yale University to compete in a National Circuit tournament from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

The team, who won at Yale last year, was entered based on prior experience. In the weeks leading up to the competition, they prepared their pieces by workshopping delivery skills, crafting arguments and speeches, and practicing performances together.

Walker Blackwell, a senior competing in Duo Interpretation, POI, Humorous Interpretation, and Dramatic Interpretation explained the three simplified categories that these events are broken down into.

“You have your debate events, your speaking events, and then your interp events,” Blackwell said, “Interp’s like acting, and that’s what DI (Dramatic interpretation) and HI (Humorous Interpretation) fall into, as well as a few others. I mainly focus on the interp events, and then I’m trying to try to move into [informative] speaking as well.”

The team typically travels together by bus, waking up sometimes as early as 3 or 4 a.m., but traveled together on a commercial airline to the Yale campus in Connecticut.

“This is the farthest we have ever traveled, so we are very excited,” said Manha Haque, senior, competing in Program Oral Interpretation and Duo Interpretation. “Because of Covid, our debate career for the past few years has been primarily online, so traveling this distance for debate is a first for almost all of us.”

For Haque, a long-time participant in speech tournaments, developing a schedule to stay organized at every competition has come in handy.

“Tournaments start very early in the morning, and I am not a morning person, however over time I have gotten used to [them],” Haque said, “For me, I like to be alone to get in the right headspace before competing. Sometimes it is listening to music, eating, or just rehearsing my speech. Once I am more awake, I love to be around my friends and usually we talk about how our rounds are going or take quick power naps.”

New to the team this year is Caleb Wright, a Junior whose interest in speech and debate sparked in middle school. Competing with a team of national champions seemed daunting at first, but he quickly became accustomed to it.

“My first tournament was last weekend and I placed fifth in my event which was DI (Dramatic Interpretation)”, said Wright, “I’m looking forward to making memories with friends, and hopefully bringing back a nice looking trophy that we can fit on Holland’s shelf.”

Christopher Lorde, senior, has competed in speech and debate since 7th grade, longer than he’s lived in the United States.

“I think my favourite part about speech and debate are the places we get to see,” said Lorde, “I’ve made tons of friends at competitions from across the country that I still talk to regularly… as crazy as it sounds, spending 18 hours a day with competitors around your age is a great bonding experience.”

Pre-competition rituals and traditions are important to the team to emphasize the community it takes to compete in such a high-stakes environment.

“We love to do our Wolfpack chant at the end of every tournament to remind ourselves that we are more than just a team, we are family. Overall it is very tiring but so worth it,” Haque said.