Five Niwot High forensics students compete and succeed at Colorado Cup
January 27, 2021
In 1925, the National Speech and Debate Association (formerly the National Forensic League) was created to "provide recognition and support for students participating in speech and debate activities." Since then, students across the nation, and even the world, have participated in debates, given speeches and performed theatrical pieces.
Like most aspects of life in the post-COVID world, speech and debate has been subject to safety and social distancing guidelines. Before COVID, competitions were held in person--debates would typically have 2-4 competitors and at least one judge at a time while public speakers and interpretive (interp) performers would be in a room with at least three other peers and at least one judge.
Now, debate and extemporaneous speeches are live-streamed while speeches and interp pieces are pre-recorded and uploaded to a tournament-specific site.
"I do speech and now that speech and interp have been pre-recorded events, tournaments have become effortless," said Niwot sophomore Anika Nagpal, who broke to semi-finals at the Colorado Cup tournament. "But I feel like you can't gauge the audience...I miss that experience."
The camaraderie inside and outside of competition rounds was certainly a hallmark of in-person events. You might see students "hitting walls," where they perform their pieces and/or debate arguments against a wall. Or, in the common area, you would see clusters of students joking, playing cards and swapping stories about previous rounds.
"What's characteristic of the forensics community at large is a lot of support," explained NHS Coach Mohika Nagpal, sister to current team member Anika. Nagpal (class of 2016) was a member and former captain of the Niwot team during her own high school career and when given the opportunity to come back, jumped at the chance.
Since the beginning of COVID, the class--which ended this fall, moving forward, the team will only be a club--was taught virtually, as have the practices.
"This year, especially, we were nervous about tournaments," said Anika. For her, it was exciting but also somewhat nerve-wracking to break into the semi-finals round due to the fact that rather than being pre-recorded, it was live.
"I had to, like, cram-memorize my speech," she laughed. "[But putting on her competition suit and] getting ready just brought back so many memories, it felt amazing."
The team is gearing up to compete at more competitions, including the state festival tournament this weekend. To keep up to date with the team, they can be followed on Instagram at @NiwotDebate