The Morristown West Speech and Debate team attended the Evergreen Invitational on Dec. 4, 2021. This was the first in-person tournament that the team has been able to attend since the COVID-19 pandemic started. In total, there were 30 team members attending. Nine students had past experience at past in-person tournaments and 21 had no experience before this tournament. Suzanne Terry, Speech and Debate coach and Theater Arts teacher at West High, shared “Saturday was a 19 hour work day for me but it's so much more. I got to spend the day with some of the best kids on the planet at our first in-person speech and debate tournament in almost two year. I got to watch relationships grow as they took care of each other, explained how to do the tasks at hand and rejoiced in each other’s successes or comfort when necessary. I got to watch self confidence grow. I got to watch as they figured out what it means to belong, to be loved, to find their voice. I got to spend the day with my best girl, Ms. Sydney Terry, as she helped me love on those teenagers. I got to spend the day with some amazing parents who showed up to support their child. I got to hang out with my coach community and share stories of success and heartache. I got to watch the Dobyns Bennett team successfully hosting their event, which is the most difficult day of the year for any team. I got to hug some ALUMNI that gave back to my team all day long. We placed 2nd overall, had so much fun, appreciated everything it took to make it happen and became a team.”
Rylee Linkous placed 1st in Dramatic Interpretation. She also placed 4th in Duo Interpretation with partner Cayden Keltgen and 5th in Program Oral Interpretation.
Lorna Baxley placed 1st in Public Forum Debate with partner Noah Heissler
Heissler placed 1st in Public Forum Debate with partner Baxley. He also placed 6th in After-Dinner Speaking.
Emma Whittaker placed 2nd in Duo Interpretation with partner Faith Hodge. Whittaker also placed 2nd in Informative Speaking and 3rd in Improvisational Duet with partner Ruby Cunningham.
Hodge placed 2nd in Duo Interpretation with partner Whittaker. She also placed 2nd in Impromptu Speaking and 5th in Humorous Interpretation.
Cunningham placed 3rd in Improvisational Duet with partner Whittaker.
Aarya Patel placed 4th in Informative Speaking and 5th in Original Oratory.
Cayden Keltgen placed 4th in Duo Interpretation with partner Linkous. He also placed 2nd in Humorous Interpretation and 4th in Storytelling.
Aaron Bass placed 5th in After-Dinner Speaking.
Nicholas Sipple placed 6th in Pantomime.
Brooklyn Riley placed 6th in Solo Acting.
Nicolette Skeen placed 7th in After-Dinner Speaking.
For many students, this was their first time attending an in-person tournament. Cunningham says that she “was so used to competing online that I never realized that I could make the relationships that could be made with people from the team, other teams, and alumni. Breaking was amazing, and even if I hadn’t broken at this tournament, I still would do this again in a heartbeat. When I first entered high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and Speech and Debate has given me a purpose and drive to be my best self.”
Reeselyn Short says that “when we first got to Dobyns-Bennett, there were so many emotions going through me at that moment. I was nervous, excited, happy, and so much more. Competing for the first time ever at an in-person tournament was amazing, and I made new friends, cried some, and then powered through my rounds. Even though I didn’t break into finals, this was still one of the best experiences in my life, and this showed me that Speech and Debate is something that I will continue to do in the future.”
Holden Smith remarked, “Saturday was like no other. As soon as I reached Dobyns-Bennett, I was overwhelmed by the size of the school. As I entered the building, I realized that I was going to get lost. As I was waiting for judges, I got to meet and make connections with new people. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one that was lost and attending their first in-person tournament. I am so grateful that I got to have this experience because I have grown so much, and I would recommend this experience to anyone and everyone.”
Baxley quoted, “I have missed competing at in-person tournaments! Debate is my passion, and doing it online has not been the best. Debating online is so much different from debating in-person, and I have truly missed the experience of it all. I got to watch our teammates that have never competed in-person figure it all out and excel in their categories, and on top of that, we came home with 2nd overall sweepstakes. I watched as we became the Morristown West Speech and Debate team that we have always been, and I am forever grateful.”
The team placed second in overall large school sweepstakes. Congratulations to the team!