Speech, Debate Team Celebrates Their Breaks At Soddy Daisy

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

The Morristown West Speech and Debate team competed in their first local tournament on Sept. 25. This competition was hosted by the Soddy-Daisy High School. Due to COVID, this competition was a virtual tournament. The team had 59 entries with 33 students competing, and 17 competitors placed in the final rounds.


Senior Rylee Linkous placed 4th in Dramatic Interpretation (D.I.), 1st in Poetry, and 2nd in Prose. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is the connections you make over time with members of the team. She believes this team is “more of a family than a team because they all truly care for each other and want the best for each other.” Besides Speech and Debate, she mainly focuses on her studies and other classes, as well as helping her family, especially with caring for her younger brother, Xander Linkous, who suffers from many medical issues, as he is her biggest source of inspiration.


Senior Emma Whittaker placed 2nd in Duet Acting with her partner, Faith Hodge, and 4th in Impromptu. She loves getting to meet new people from different places, whether it's someone from Johnson City or California! She also loves getting to go and explore all of the college campuses when they are able to travel. Besides Speech and Debate, Whittaker focuses on her other coursework. The advice she has for students wanting to join Speech and Debate is “Just go for it. There is a stigma that only "smart" people can do good in Speech and Debate, but that is the opposite of true. There are people here who excel at tournaments and struggle in any other classroom. Everybody here is always willing to help you with anything you need help with, and it is such a loving and welcoming environment that I'm happy to be a part of.”


Senior Faith Hodge placed 2nd in Duet Acting with her partner, Emma Whittaker, and 5th in Duo Interpretation with her partner, Delaney Miksa. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is how she feels close with everyone on the team and how once you walk into the room, you are part of a family. She is involved in Student Council, Spanish and French Club, FCCLA, and National Honors Society. Her advice to students that are interested in Speech and Debate is to just do it, and the time and effort you put into it is worth it in the end.


Freshman Abigail Snider placed 6th in Duo Interpretation with her partner, Ella Hardin. Snider enjoys every part of Speech and Debate, including the community and atmosphere and how everyone has each other’s back throughout the process of writing and performing pieces.


Freshman Ella Hardin placed 6th in Duo Interpretation with the partner, Abigail Snider. Hardin enjoys the positive and uplifting atmosphere and how all of her worries go away once she walks into the classroom.


Sophomore Delaney Miksa placed 5th in Duo Interpretation with her partner, Faith Hodge, 2nd in Original Oratory, and 3rd in Program Oral Interpretation. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is all of the friends she has found in her teammates and how she doesn’t have to be afraid to be herself in class. Miksa was the first freshman to qualify for the NSDA National Tournament. Outside of school, Miksa does ballet, jazz, contemporary, and pointe at MVMT Performing Arts.


Junior Kimber Strumski placed 2nd in Humorous Interpretation, 3rd in Original Oratory, and 4th in Prose. Her favorite part about Speech and Debate is the strong sense of family within the team. Besides Speech and Debate, she is also a member of the Beta Club. Her advice for interested students is “do it because it can be extremely beneficial in so many ways.”


Senior Cayden Keltgen placed 1st in Impromptu and 1st in Pantomime. His favorite thing about Speech and Debate is that it forces him to think on his feet. His advice to interested students is that “it’s the best program in the building to test your boundaries! Get started with theatre arts 1 and work your way up!” Keltgen is on the Student Council as a senior class representative.


Freshman Isabella Picardi placed 5th in Informative Speaking. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is getting to meet new people and writing speeches. Outside of school, Picardi is on the Student Council as Freshman Class President.


Sophomore Aarya Patel placed 6th in Original Oratory. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is the “sense of family that grows between team members, parents, and Mrs. Terry herself,” and how she isn’t afraid to ask for help from the people on her team, regardless of the event they compete in. Outside of school, Patel is a staff writer for the West Side Story, and she is on the Student Council as Sophomore Class President. She is also a member of FBLA, DECA, Beta Club, and National Honors Society. Patel also enjoys reading and cooking.


Junior Aaron Bass placed 6th in Pantomime. His favorite thing about Speech and Debate is the community feeling the team has. Outside of school, Bass enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and other video games.


Freshman Nicholas Sipple placed 5th in Pantomime.


Maya Hill placed 6th in Poetry. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is the family-like atmosphere of the group and how she can ask for help without feeling afraid. Hill plays the guitar outside of school.


Senior Lorna Baxley placed 1st in Public Forum Debate with her partner, Noah Heissler. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is participating in debates and the bond with her teammates. Outside of school, Baxley is a member of FBLA and DECA. She also works at Dollywood.


Senior Noah Heissler placed 1st in Public Forum Debate with his partner, Lorna Baxley. His favorite thing about Speech and Debate is “the trust I can have from the people in this room.” Outside of school, Heissler helps his uncle do drywall.

Aaron Bass, Maya Hill, Ella Hardin, Abigail Snider, Emma Whittaker, Faith Hodge, Cayden Keltgen, Noah Heissler, Haydin Salter, Aarya Patel, Lorna Baxley, Jocey Valdez, Isabella Picardi, Alexie Cowan, Delaney Miksa, and Rylee Linkous.
Aaron Bass, Maya Hill, Ella Hardin, Abigail Snider, Emma Whittaker, Faith Hodge, Cayden Keltgen, Noah Heissler, Haydin Salter, Aarya Patel, Lorna Baxley, Jocey Valdez, Isabella Picardi, Alexie Cowan, Delaney Miksa, and Rylee Linkous.

Sophomore Sienna Hollis placed 4th in Public Forum Debate with her partner, Hayden Salter. Her favorite part about Speech and Debate is how she can connect with people on the team and how everyone on the team is like a family. Outside of school, Hollis is on Beta Club and National Honors Society. Hollis also does community service.


Freshman Hayden Salter placed 4th in Public Forum Debate with her partner, Sienna Hollis. Her favorite part about Speech and Debate is participating in debates, whether they are for competition or mock debates in class. Outside of school, Salter likes to play softball with her travel team.


Freshman Waylon Dunn placed 5th in Public Forum Debate with his partner, Jocey Valdez. His favorite part of Speech and Debate is how supportive the team is. Outside of school, Dunn enjoys skating.


Freshman Jocey Valdez placed 5th in Public Forum Debate with her partner, Waylon Dunn. Her favorite part of Speech and Debate are the people on the team and how everyone on the team is a family. Outside of school, Valdez babysits and works at Food City.


Senior Alexie Cowan placed 6th in Humorous Interpretation. Her favorite thing about Speech and Debate is all of the new friends she has made. Outside of school, Cowan is a cheerleader on West High’s cheerleading team, participates in gymnastics at Jana’s, and is an active member of Kidwell’s Ridge Church.


Morristown West High School took 2nd place Sweepstakes, meaning they were the second-highest scoring team out of 23 schools competing. Mrs. Suzanne Terry, Speech and Debate coach, shared, “I'm so stinking proud, especially to have 8 brand new students break at their first tournament. Every break is exciting, but the new breaks are the most exciting.”


Justin Belger, Joseph Parrot, Zoe Sluss, Kenzie Williams, Nicolette Skeen, Yakelin Hernandez, Kennedy Williamson, Kayla Skiennion, Tristan Lindsey, Brooklyn Riley, Kaitlyn Simmons, Maggie Purgason, and Parlon Gibson also competed at this competition.


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