Two speech and debate members prep for Nationals

de las Alas, Sampson qualify for virtual event this summer

Senior Andrew de las Alas is one of two members of the speech and debate team -- so far -- who have qualified for Nationals.

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Senior Andrew de las Alas is one of two members of the speech and debate team — so far — who have qualified for Nationals.

Ainsley Danilson, Reporter

Two members of the school’s speech and debate team, senior Andrew de las Alas and junior Victory Sampson, have qualified for Nationals and are getting ready for this summer’s competition.

This is not the first time that the team has participants at this level. “We have had qualifiers for nine years in a row,” said Mrs. Jeanne Malone, head coach of the speech and debate team, during a phone interview.

There is still some opportunity left for other members of the team as well. “The team could have up to five national qualifiers this year,” said Malone. 

Due to the challenges that coronavirus have presented this year, competitions have looked a little different. “They’ve all been virtual, and the team members have had to talk to a camera,” Malone said. Because of this significant change, there can be many issues that the team had to work through. “It’s difficult to perform if the audience isn’t there for feedback, and the audio and visual can be delayed,” the coach said. 

Despite the meets being virtual, qualifying to Nationals was still similar to previous years. “The process didn’t change on the surface this year. We still compete at the Districts meet and the top two finishers advance to Nationals,” de las Alas, one of the national qualifiers, said.

“Just to qualify for Nationals means that you are (at) the top (percentage) in your event,” said Malone. 

de las Alas and Sampson have gone through the process of qualifying multiple times. Malone said, “This is both Andrew and Victory’s third time qualifying for the national competition.”

Even though they have both qualified a total of three times, this year has been even more challenging than usual. “I have had to teach them how to compete virtually, and it’s difficult to help them when they cannot fully compete in person,” said Malone. 

Because this both Sampson and de las Alas said that they felt the challenges have helped them improve. “I also had a lot more time to read and research this year, which gave me better and more nuanced material, particularly in impromptu,” de las Alas.

In addition to this, since there is no audience the speakers have had to ensure that they perform their speech well. Sampson said, “When there’s a very specific way that a piece needs to be performed in order for it to be received well, it’s important to pay close attention to detail.”

Since both the qualifiers have been on the team for years, they have a lot of advice for underclassmen who are on the team or will join the team at some point. “Practice and emotional vulnerability are key. It may take a while to bear emotions for others to see, but you have the chance to tell a story,” said Sampson. 

In addition, de las Alas said, “The resources on the team are readily available, so if a student is genuinely interested in qualifying for Nationals, they have an excellent foundation to build on.”

Altogether, the speech team has accomplished much this year and has improved. “I’m so proud of this team, especially since many speech teams at other schools were unable to compete,” said Malone. 

de las Alas said speech gives students many skills that can help later on in life. “It’s a great way to develop not just public speaking, but also writing, research, (and critical thinking,” he said. 

Speech offers a range of events for students. Sampson said, “There are many events and pieces that people may find interesting if they look into it without all of the preconceived notions.”