Speech team puts National competition plans on hold

Members mourn the loss of junior Lendon Byram


Kylee Lucas

To honor his memory, flowers have been placed at the speech and debate sign of junior Lendon Byram.

Avery Stuckey, Reporter

The speech and debate team, which had qualified several individuals to the national tournament this summer, has put its plans on hold after the May 1 passing of junior and team member Lendon Byram, who was one of those national qualifiers.

Bryam and his date, Hamilton Heights senior Kalen Hart, died as a result of a car crash in Hamilton County on their way to the Hamilton Heights prom.

Mrs. Jeanne Malone, the speech and debate head coach, said the sudden passing of a key team member affected the team in ways that are hard to imagine. “Shock, sadness and trying to understand why,” she said.

While Bryam was taken way too early, he still continues to have a huge impact on the school, and especially his speech and debate teammates, and will continue to do so for many, many years to come. Malone said, “(We’re) trying to focus on his legacy and tremendous gifts. He loved social studies, political science and he was always right. He’s a very talented and artistic kid.”

Before the tragedy of Lendon’s passing, the speech and debate team was wrapping up another successful year and preparing qualifiers for the national competition.=

Freshman Bryce Hahn noted that the underclassmen did well in this year. “We were quick on our feet. We were rolling with the changes of this year. And we definitely worked hard,” Hahn said. “It is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, engage in public speaking, be a part of a team and make new friends.”

Because of this opportunity, many students are able to participate and meet new people. “The team tends to attract students who are passionate about the world around them,” said senior and national qualifier Andrew de las Alas.

To be on the team, a background in speech and debate is not a necessity. “I had no experience at all,” said Hahn. “I got into it because of one of my friends on the cross-country team (suggested it).”

On the other hand, de las Alas has been on the team much longer and has more experience. It has influenced him positively, he said. “Speech and debate made me more confident, more conscientious and more appreciative of the events that dictate history. I became a significantly better writer after trying to find flaws in argument, and I’m definitely more aware of what’s going on in the world,” de las Alas said.

Since almost everything has been affected by Covid-19, speech and debate competitions have too. Throughout the year, team members followed all precautions and guidelines, participating in competitions online. “We use the app Jitsi,” Hahn said.

Returning team members experienced challenges because they compared this season to past in-person competitions. de las Alas said, “I miss talking to other competitors from different schools. There’s a few people I don’t think I’ll ever see in person again because of it. During breaks, I’d usually hang out with our own team, too, and that’s how I was able to connect. We’re able to this year, but not nearly on the same level. I miss being able to walk onto stage or clap for our team in a big auditorium.”

Other than Bryam and de las Alas, the other national qualifiers on this year’s team include junior Hagan McClelland, junior Victory Sampson and freshman George Madden.