Online orators

Courtesy photos: Above, Olivia Foster and Joseph Cassady record their Duo Interpretation performance via Zoom. Below, Qualifying for the National Speech and Debate Tournament from Brookings were, back from left, Uriah Koch, Aditya Tummala, Jon Sundet and Prasoon Kharel; and front, Olivia Foster, Joseph Cassady, Lily Palo, Angela Lansang and Olivia Anderson.

Brookings team competes in National Speech and Debate Tournament online

BROOKINGS – Brookings’ Speech and Debate Team competed in its 56th National Speech and Debate Tournament earlier this month. However, things this year looked very different than they have in the past, according to coach Carrie Oorlog.

Originally scheduled for June 14-20 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the National Speech and Debate Association made the decision in April to move the competition online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The team did not receive an overall placing or distinction, but … this is the 56th time that Brookings has been represented in this tournament,” Oorlog said.

“In order to qualify for this tournament, students compete with other students from northern South Dakota for a chance to represent South Dakota at the tournament. Each event can only have two representatives from each NSDA district (Northern South Dakota). Brookings students who attended this tournament won in competition this February against 12-20 other students vying for this prestigious spot,” she said. 

Different way 

“Students have spent the last month practicing via Zoom. Students in speech events prerecorded their performances. They are then judged live via Zoom. Students in debate events compete live in Zoom rooms with their teammates, opponents and judges,” Oorlog said.

Student Lily Palo thought pre-recording speeches was easier than the way students have competed in the past. As a Brookings High School senior, she was participating in her third national tournament.

“I was a bit nervous to see how it was gonna play out. I was a bit sad at first, because it was my last national and I really wanted to have a great time with my team, but it all turned out great in the end,” Palo said.

“Honestly, the online format was a lot easier to navigate; not having to go in between rounds. We just have one pre-recorded performance and we just play that every single round, so it’s not like we’re getting up and we have to perform every time. So it’s a lot less exhausting, I would say, a lot less draining,” Palo said.

“It was an incredible time. I’m just so lucky to have a platform where I can share my voice with such a wide audience of people,” she said.

Palo competed at the national tournament in Program Oral Interpretation and Poetry. She was in the top 30 in the nation before being eliminated (the event started with around 275 competitors). She competed in both octo finals and quarter finals. 

Prasoon Kharel was sad to miss the trip to nationals, but curious as how organizers would pull off the tournament. As a BHS junior, this was his second national tournament. 

“I was more interested to see how they would accommodate such a big tournament to make it all online, and I was actually pretty impressed with how they did it because everything ran smoothly pretty much,” Kharel said.

“On the first day, there was just one tech issue, but other than that, it was really simple to figure out the route, where you had to go. Everything was done, like, very well under Zoom,” he said, adding it was “super easy” to access the competition areas and find judges or opponents on time. 

Kharel competed in Lincoln-Douglas Debate at the national tournament. He has competed for three years, and this was his second national tournament. He did not advance to the out rounds. 

Performing in speech competitions is important to Palo.

“Speech is genuinely my passion. I love sharing a message with people. I find that I am most myself when I’m speaking to people. That’s something that I’m good at and it’s something that I want to keep doing better at,” she said.

“I also love performing – ever since I was a kid – and being able to perform and also advocate for what I believe in at the same time is something that is truly incredible,” Palo said.

In the end, Kharel was grateful the event was online.

“I think speech is a great activity and I’m really glad that the national tournament was so accessible this year because I know a lot of students can’t even afford to go to the national tournament, so being online was kind of like a silver lining (so) a lot of students were able to do it anyways,” Kharel said.

Others participating

Brookings Speech and Debate is coached by Oorlog, James Kerr and Dhwani Kharel.

Several other Brookings students competed in the national tournament.

Senior Angela Lansang competed at the national tournament in Program Oral Interp. She has participated for four years. This was her third national tournament. She did not make the out rounds of the tournament.

Sophomore Olivia Foster competed in Duo Interpretation at the national tournament. She has participated for two years. This was her first national tournament. She and her partner, Joseph Cassady, did not make it to the out rounds. (Duo was the biggest change, Oorlog said. The rules required competitors to be in two separate rooms while performing their selections). 

Junior Joseph Cassady competed in Duo at the national tournament. He has competed for three years, and this was his first national tournament. He has competed in Duo and Storytelling.

Freshman Olivia Anderson competed at the national tournament in Humorous Interpretation. This was her first year in the activity and her first national tournament. She did not advance to the out rounds. 

Senior Jon Sundet competed on the World Schools Debate team. He has competed for four years, and this was his second national tournament. The World Schools team did not advance to the out rounds. 

Senior Uriah Koch competed on the World Schools Debate team. He has competed for four years, and this was his second national tournament. 

Sophomore Aditya Tummala competed on the World Schools Debate team. He has competed for two years, and this was his first national tournament.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]

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