SHS Debaters Excel at Three Weekend Tournaments
- The Goods
- Published on Thursday, 12 January 2017 13:28
- Josie Blatt
The weekend of January 7, students on the Scarsdale High School Speech and Debate Team attended three different tournaments around the country.
On Saturday, January 7, 2017 the Scarsdale High School Speech Team brought 50 students to the annual Chaminade Invitational Tournament in Mineola, NY, the highest number of students the team has brought to a tournament all year. Students competed in seven speech categories: Junior Varsity Oral Interpretation, Varsity Oral Interpretation, Junior Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Performance, Declamation, and Original Oratory.
In Oral Interpretation (OI), students alternate every other round between performing one prose piece and one poetry piece. Prose pieces that SHS students are currently competing with include "Mick Harte Was Here" by Barbara Park, "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper, and "Swallow the Ocean" by Laura Flynn. Poetries include "Shark Girl" by Kelly Bingham, "Perfect" by Ellen Hopkins, and programs of poetry on topics such as social anxiety, feminism, and LGBTQ rights. Competitors read from a small binder, and are prohibited from moving their feet, so they can be judged solely on their vocal variation, hand gestures, and facial expressions.
Overall, students like to describe OI as "competitive acting". OI is one of the more popular speech categories, because it is one of three that freshman on the team start off learning. Freshman joining the Speech Team can select to get their initial training in either Oral Interpretation, Declamation, or Extemporaneous Speaking.
Extemporaneous Speaking is a current events based category. Before each round of a tournament, competitors draw a question they have never seen before, related to an issue in the news. They are then given 30 minutes of preparation time before they have to give a 7-minute speech, without notes, answering the question. To prepare for tournament, "extempers" file articles, keep up closely with current events, and give practice speeches. Example extemp questions from a tournament this weekend include: "How much influence does Donald Trump have on whether businesses build here or overseas?" "Should Montenegro be allowed to join NATO?" and, "How has the push for legalized marijuana in America affected the drug war in Mexico?"
In Dramatic Performance (DP), another "competitive acting" category, students cut and perform pieces from a book, play, or short story that are either humorous or dramatic. DP is similar to OI, but it is memorized and you are allowed to move your feet, so competitors are also judged on their movements.
In Declamation, students give speeches that have already been given, and are judged on their delivery of the speech. For example, competitors often perform Ted Talks, Commencement Addresses or Original Oratory speeches from previous years.
In Original Oratory students write and perform their own 10 minute speeches on a societal issue that they are passionate about, and offer solutions on resolution of these issues. Competitors are judged on the delivery of their speeches, along with the writing. Josie Blatt's (17') oratory this year is about how we've lost the wonder that we had as young children, and why we need to regain it. Other examples of Oratory topics include Natalie Rosier's ('18) speech on society's over reliance on predictions, and Emily Schwartz's ('17) on the fear of being alone, and how we can see being alone in a positive light.
The structure of a typical one-day speech tournament consists of three preliminary rounds, where students give their speeches in rooms with five other competitors. They are ranked on a scale from one to six, and the students with the lowest cumulative ranks move on to either a one room final round with six to eight competitors, or a two room final round with 12-16 competitors. However, this Saturday students were informed after the first preliminary round that the final round was cancelled due to the snowstorm, and the team left immediately after the third round. Although there was no final round, students were still awarded half qualifications to the New York State Forensics League Championship, at Hofstra University in April, based on their ranks in the three preliminary rounds.
The following students from Scarsdale High School received half qualifications: In JVOI, Julia McMurray '19 and Emma Glaser '20, and Christina Coco '20. In VOI, Jocelyn Weiss '19. In JVEX, Eve Mainster '20, Adina Mistry '19 and Abhinav Vittal '20. In Declamation, Katia Jacovides '19, and in Oratory Josie Blatt '17. Mainster and Blatt are now fully qualified for the State Championship, and will join around 20 other speech team members who are already qualified.
On Friday, January 6, and Saturday, January 7, 2017, 16 students on the debate side of the team attended the Newark Invitational tournament at Science Park High school in Newark, NJ. The Lincoln Douglas resolution for January and February is "Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict constitutionally protected free speech." Students must argue the affirmative and negative sides on this resolution.
Students competed in Varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate (1 on 1 debate), Novice Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Novice Public Forum Debate (2 on 2 debate). In Varsity LD there were six preliminary rounds, and the tournament broke to partial double octafinals. Natalie Isak '18 and Michael Landau '17 were double-octa finalists, Lauren Singer '17 was an octa finalist, Gillian Zipursky '17 was a quarterfinalist, and Zack Gelles '17 was a semifinalist. Zipursky and Gelles received bids to the Tournament of Champions, making it Zipursky's third bid of the season, and Gelles's second, completing his qualification to the Tournament of Champions. Zipursky was also ranked third speaker and Gelles was ranked fourth. In Novice LD, there were five preliminary rounds and the tournament broke to quarterfinals. Nikki Lerner '20 was ranked 8th speaker.
On Saturday, January 7 and Sunday January 8, 2017, Zach Kapner '17 and Keshav Rastogi '17 attended to the Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin in Nashville, Tennessee, an invite-only tournament for competitors in Extemporaneous Speaking. Invites to the tournament were based on performance at major circuit tournaments in both the prior season and the first semester of this one. There were ten rounds of Round Robin competition, with four competitors and three judges per room. There were only 16 competitors invited, so it was an impressive achievement just to be a participant, but Zach Kapner '17 also placed sixth in the highly competitive tournament.
January is a busy month for the Speech and Debate Team. Next weekend, January 14-16, students will be attending the Sunvitational Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Fr. Rippon Memorial Tournament at Regis and Loyola High Schools in Manhattan, and the Lexington Winter Invitational in Lexington, MA. Later this month, the team will be attending the Columbia Invitational at Columbia University in Manhattan, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart Tournament in Greenwich, CT.
The team is coached by physics teacher Joe Vaughan, and assistant coach Will Maldarelli, a middle school social studies teacher. They chaperone and help run almost all tournaments that team attends. However, on a weekend with more than two tournaments, the team brings parent chaperones. The team also must provide a certain number of judges at each tournament, depending on how many students it brings. The judges are typically trained parent judges or SHS alumni. In addition to judging tournaments, parents of team members also help run the Scarsdale Invitational Tournament, hosted at SHS in November.
This year's Speech and Debate Team is the biggest it has ever been, with 138 members. With a team so large, the mentorship training program is incredibly valuable. The team's 19 junior and senior officers, and other upperclassman, work closely with underclassmen at practices twice a week. The team has been very successful this year, and is looking forward to a great conclusion to the season.