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Final Forensics qualifier sends Sabercats to Nationals

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On Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4, Fossil Ridge High School’s Speech and Debate team hosted the final national qualifier of the season. Nineteen schools from Colorado were in attendance, and six Sabercats competed at the tournament in a variety of events. Max Banks and Holly Ryan took first in Public Forum debate and Ciera Dykstra took second in Program Oral Interpretation, and the three of them will compete at Nationals in Birmingham, Alabama in mid-June.

This tournament was equivalent to double elimination. Several Fossil students were double entered, essentially competing in two events that were completely independent of one another. For debate events, such as Public Forum (PF) and Lincoln-Douglas (LD), the judges determine a winning side and losing side. The winning side gets an “up”, the losing side a “down”, and competitors are eliminated with each round, until there are two or three people left. They will represent Colorado at Nationals.

In speech events, including Extemporaneous Speaking (NX) and Original Oratory (OO), ups and downs are a little less clear. There are six people in each round, and the judges rank them first, second, third, and down. Though everyone who ranks in the top three of the round gets an up, a higher rank increases the likelihood that the person will be in the finals if all the rounds can’t be completed. The National Speech and Debate Association states that the final rounds must be posted by 9:15 pm, and sometimes that isn’t enough time for all the preliminary rounds. If there isn’t, different tournaments have different policies. Several years ago at a Nat Qual, names had to be drawn out of a hat to pick the Lincoln-Douglas competitors.

Ryan and Banks competed in Public Forum debate at the tournament, going undefeated throughout two days of competition against schools from all over the state. The event is set up in a fairly traditional debate style, in which the students present their cases for their side of the issue, determined in a coin toss. They then engage in rebuttal and refutation, as well as crossfire, where the other team is questioned quickly in the hopes they’ll say something to negate their own argument. Ryan finds that debate is, “an environment where everyone can be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, where we can all contribute to each other’s ideas and talk about bigger world issues.”

Lauren Fessler double competed in OO and Informative Speaking. Though she was eliminated from OO after three rounds, she made it to the finals after six rounds in Informative Speaking. She performed a memorized, ten-minute speech that she got to pick the topic of before a panel of judges in each round. When she joined debate several years ago, it was because she was terrified of public speaking. Now she really enjoys, “having a group of people who are willing to listen, and getting to listen to other people.” Fessler didn’t qualify for Nationals at this tournament, but she is an alternate for Congressional Debate and still might have the opportunity to compete.

Dykstra’s events were NX and Program Oral Interpretation (POI). She took fourth at the competition in NX and second in POI. Dykstra explained that she’s been doing NX longer, but loves the theatrical piece that comes with POI. She created and performed a ten minute routine that used selections from prose, poetry, and drama in the event. Dykstra and Ryan both qualified as alternates in Congressional Debate as well, but will defer those qualifications in order to compete in their preferred events at the Nationals..

The Fossil forensics team will compete at the State competition on March 17 and 18. Six Sabercats will be representing the school in NX, OO, and Public Forum debate. More details about State can be found here. Good luck to all the students in March and later in June!

About the Writer
Isabella Mahal, Copy Editor
Isabella Mahal: journalist, academic beat leader, activist for what she believes in. Whether it’s defending women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, or freedom of speech, Mahal isn’t afraid to fight for what she finds just. She has been involved in journalism since her freshman year, but she didn’t know until a couple months into the class that...
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Final Forensics qualifier sends Sabercats to Nationals