SHS speech and debate students to compete in national competitions

From left to right: Starkville High School Speech and Debate students Mia Richardson, Lizzie Tomlin, Cathy Li and Vayd Ramkumar. The students plus Michael Lu and Aaron Wan will compete in national speech and debate tournaments this summer. (submitted photo)
Staff Writer

To conclude a successful year, six members of the Starkville High School Speech and Debate team will compete in two national competitions in the coming months.

After qualifying in regional and state tournaments the students will be headed to national tournaments for the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) and the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). Sophomores Lizzie Tomlin, Catherine Li and Vayd Ramkumar will compete in the NSDA competition held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in June, while freshmen Aaron Wan and Michael Lu will compete in the NCFL competition in Washington D.C. in May. Junior Mia Richardson will compete in both.

Robertson said it was actually her first year on the team.

“I wasn’t really expecting to qualify for nationals,” Robertson said. “I just wanted to go and experience it and see how everything was that I could learn from the national qualifiers, but then I guess I just got really lucky after working so hard on my pieces and on our debate cases.”

Richardson said it took a lot of practice and research to prepare for her events.

“We’re going to have to do a lot more research than we usually would,” Richardson said. “We already do so much, but we’re going to have to look even further for all of our topics to make sure that we’re ready on every single front.”

At NCFL Robertson will compete in oral interpretation, and at NSDA she will compete in public forum debate.

Ramkumar recounted the experience of attending a prior NSDA competition as an alternate last year. With very little time to prepare, it didn’t go so well.

“The first year I went to NSDA, we basically got ripped apart,” Ramkumar said.

However, he feels this time will be a bit different, since he knows the plan ahead of time, and will be prepared by the time competition rolls around. At the NSDA competition, the SHS debaters will be up against more than 200 teams from across the country.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of what people at nationals are, because I’ve witnessed firsthand just how good these people are,” Ramkumar said.

Debate coach Sonya Harvey, a SHS English teacher, discussed the team’s success in her three years coaching debate at SHS. She said the team had continued to grow in quality since she had taken over as coach.

“I’m obviously very proud if them,” Harvey said. “I think that it is a good sign that the team is thriving. It’s really not about the number of people on the team, but the quality of the people that are on the team. I’d take a quality team over a big team any day. It says a lot about these kids and the hard work that they put into it.”