Three MHS students to compete in first virtual speech and debate nationals

Three MHS students to compete in first virtual speech and debate nationals
A screen shot of Mexico High School's Grant Norfleet competing virtually in a speech and debate event earlier this year. [Submitted photo]
Dave Faries

Samantha Joiner expects one thing to be missing from the National Speech & Debate Tournament.

“You don’t get the same adrenaline rush,” she said.

For the first time in its 90 year history, the best of the best in high school speech and debate will not travel to one location to show off their talents. Instead, the event will take place online.

In a year that has seen competitions take place virtually, with students participating alone from rooms or through previously recorded video, students have grown accustomed – somewhat – to the stilted online atmosphere.

“I thrive on audience reaction,” explained Grant Norfleet. “Having to find the motivation to be virtual – it’s odd, that’s the only way to explain it.

The differences can be subtle. Tone of voice can resonate one way in person, another way online. A high pitch might sound thin and tinny as it vibrates from a small speaker. Gestures and movements that are vibrant in real life fall flat when compressed into two dimensions.

But Joiner, Norfleet and first time nationals participant Shadora Foy have learned through a season of competition how to adjust. One of the advantages – at least when it comes to recorded sessions – is the ability to take a second or third shot at getting the presentation where they want it.

“The virtual meets were fine,” Foy added. “One pro to them was business on the top, comfortable on the bottom.”

Foy appreciates the acting aspect. Norfleet’s event – Program Oral Interpretation – combines acting and interpretation. Joiner’s specialty is expository speaking, and she enjoys taking on controversial topics.

“Usually I think about what bothers me most and what I have a strong opinion about,” she said.

Events in the national competition are judged in June.


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