Speech and Debate placed fifth in sweeps as a team at the Francis Howell North Speech Tournament Nov. 2.
Prateek Gautam, junior, placed sixth in radio speaking and Arya Patri, freshman, placed second in novice original oratory. Arpitha Sistla, sophomore, placed second in poetry oratory interpretation and Aarushi Boinepally, junior, placed third in dramatic interpretation.
Sarah George, junior, placed first in the original oratory event and said she was excited to win first place because she worked hard over the summer trying to perfect her event and memorized the speech beforehand.
“It really just depends on the judges so one tournament I could get last place and not even advance or I could get first place,” George said. “I just felt pretty happy that all my work paid off.”
George said her event, original oratory, is essentially a 10-minute persuasive speech. While many think the event is easy, George said the simplicity of the event is part of what makes it so difficult.
“A lot of people hear that and think it’s really easy because it’s like an ALAR/P speech, but it’s hard because it is simple to give a monotone speech or say a speech that doesn’t really have an impact,” George said. “There are a lot of aspects within a speech which makes it really engaging that many people forget about.”
George said her end goal is to place at Nationals, whether it be an expository or main event. She said she is first working towards qualifying from Districts in order to be able to compete at Nationals. George said Speech and Debate is extremely helpful in developing self-motivation and learning to stick up for oneself.
“Before Speech and Debate, I was so shy and I didn’t know what I wanted, but it’s a cruel world out there and you need to know that your opinion matters no matter what,” George said. “So make sure your voice will stand out, despite if it is wrong or right. Debate is also good civil discourse.”
Shruti Punnachalil, senior, serves as president. This year, Punnachalil said the team is working towards rebuilding for the new school year. She said they are focusing on themselves and motivated to keep the team strong like it has been in years past.
“The biggest thing I want to help our team work towards is taking the emphasis off of material manifestations of our success like trophies and more so on the learning and trying to get better at what we do,” Punnachalil said.
Punnachalil said the team has many strong debaters who have been dedicated since day one in improving their craft. She said this helps the team to grow closer and facilitates team spirit among the members.
“What has kept me in Debate is the community and the people that I get to be with every day,” Punnachalil said. “They tend to be my best friends and I spend time with them outside of school all the time, even outside of debate.”
Raymond Holmes, Speech and Debate adviser, said he was proud of the students when he heard how well they placed at the tournament.
“They worked really hard to prepare themselves for this tournament so it’s really nice to see all that hard work amount to some recognition,” Holmes said.
While it is great when the team places well at tournaments, Holmes said it is not the overall goal of the program. Rather, he hopes students have the opportunity to get better at public speaking and learn how to navigate the competitive speaking field, as well as continuing to learn new things as a whole.
“I hope the team can continue going to tournaments and compete well and take away good lessons when they don’t do as well as they want to but also growing more as a team,” Holmes said. “There are a lot of choices the students get to make which presents a lot of opportunities for them to express themselves in different ways.”
Holmes said Debate gives him the opportunity to help out students one-on-one and see them grow through different speaking events.
“It’s important to be there for students when they have those successes to celebrate with them, but also to talk things over with them when they don’t do as well as they desire,” Holmes said.