Debate competitors reach NSDA national stage

By Allison Keppinger and Valentina Padula

From the humorous skits to the dramatic performances, Speech and Debate has been a passionate elective for many at West Broward. Limited to only a camera and lights, students have had to rely on their performative talents more than ever. This year, junior Angelina Campos, senior Alex Steel and senior Parker Harrison have qualified and will be competing virtually in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament.

National competitions take place over the summer, and only students who are ranked in the top three in a district tournament will qualify. This year’s nationals will take place on Jun. 13th-18th virtually. Campos will be competing under Dramatic Interpretation, while Harrison and Steel will compete in Humorous Interpretation. The tournament will have livestream coverage.

“All three have handled it very well and they have all had very successful years considering everything that’s happened.” said debate teacher Diane Harrison. 

To get the opportunity to compete at NSDA Nationals, students must first attend a qualifier Manatee District Tournament. The tournament took place virtually on Feb. 20th-21st. After competing, judges then determine the scores of the competitors and the top three will continue to the national tournament. Steel placed 1st, with Harrison and Campos placing 2nd and 3rd respectively.

“I believe all three of us have practiced an intense amount to reach the point we are all at now,” said senior Alex Steel. “Over the year we have all become better performers and really taken aim at a lot of the really good competitors.”

STAGGERING SUCCESS: (from left to right) Junior Angelina Campos and senior Alex Steel pose for a picture just moments after discovering their victory at Manatee District Tournament, their qualifying tournament. Both students will be competing at the NSDA National Tournament this summer, hoping to take home the gold. (Photo by Angelina Campos.)

Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation include the act of performing a skit based on a book, movie, or play. The original scripts of these works are then cut down to a ten-minute-long performance, including an introduction to the topic.

“At the beginning of the year, they began finding scripts and had to cut them down to under 10 minutes because they have to put an introduction that explains the purpose behind it,” said Mrs. Harrison. “Angelina has a book, Alex has a movie, and Parker has a play.”

The road to NSDA has been a process of adjustment, suddenly going from live presentations to a virtual screen. Competitions, all having been online, did not cease this year. The students have seen major progress in their performances and have achieved mastery in each of their categories.

“Personally, I’ve seen a lot of growth in myself,” said junior Angelina Campos. “I think it just came with time and realizing to trust myself and trust what I am doing.”

However, the act of performing and presenting has still been severely impaired due to COVID-19. In Humorous Interpretation, Harrison and Steel are accustomed to the reactions of their audience. The lack of interaction has thrown them off their balance. Having had to double their efforts, all three students have shown flexibility in their attempts to adapt to a digital world.

“You’re lacking any sort of interaction between you, the judge, and the people in the room,” said senior Parker Harrison. “Specifically for my event, Humorous Interpretation, I thrive off the laughter and energy that I get from while I’m performing.”

FORMIDABLE OPPONENT: Parker Harrison (right) posing next to his mother, Mrs. Harrison (left), and celebrating his victory at Manatee Districts at Dillard High School to qualify for last year’s national tournament. This year, Harrison can add another victory notch to his tally as he prepares once again for NSDA. (Photo by Diane Harrison)

For the rest of the school year, Steel, Harrison, and Campos will be honing their performances to perfection. With the feedback of their peers, Mrs. Harrison, and other coaches, they’ve garnered their criticisms and accepted them graciously. They’re currently focused on their last upcoming tournaments, Tournament of Champions and National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC), taking place on Apr. 16th-18th and May 7th-9th respectively.

“We’re practicing more and meeting up with coaches to get more information from them because they’ve been doing this longer than we have,” said Harrison. “Just getting more feedback is the best way to go about preparing for the national tournament.”

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