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Barradas makes history breaking into nationals finals, virtually

Rose Beilman Shoup
Pratt Tribune
Pratt High School student Colby Barrada celebrates when he finds out he made the virtual finals of the National Forenscis Tournament earlier this summer. He made it to the top 60 in the nation.

The week of June15th through the 20th, Pratt High School made history along with the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), as the nationals competition went exclusively online. Locally, Greenback junior Colby Barradas qualified for the U.S. tournament. Competing there, he made it to the top 60 cut out of about 300 students performing Dramatic Interpretation at nationals. 

Barradas actually began his journey to nationals much earlier at the end of his sophomore year when he selected a piece that he really connected with, after buying the one-act play on Amazon. After rehearsing in January, he began the performance process by getting four first-place medals at area tournaments in January through March. Once Covid hit, PHS head forensics coach Rose Beilman nominated him, up against around 30 area students to attend nationals. He was selected by the district as one of two in western Kansas to compete at the national level.

In preparing for nationals, Barradas met with Beilman, and assistant coaches Michelle Popovich and Kadie Clark in a socially-distanced setting to rehearse and whittle the piece to under the ten-minute limit consistently. Then they all consulted with Molly Swank, director of Instructional Technology for the district and with Scott Powell, a local pastor at Abundant Harvest Church of the Nazarene, who also happens to be an avid techie type and who helped the coaches and Colby with setting up and filming his ten-minute dramatic solo.

After three days of rehearsing and different takes, the coaches and Barradas finally were happy with one of the filmed takes, and they submitted his solo to the NSDA online competition.  During two days of competition, nationals’ judges from across the country judged Colby in online rooms against other students who also filmed their pieces.

As Barradas attended the online rooms to view the other students, he felt that, “it was super fun watching all the phenomenal performances by other high schoolers across the United States. But the thing that was exceptional about this experience was the amount of support I got …. My family, friends, and coaches continued to encourage me when I had to rework my piece to fit nationals criteria.”

That nationals criteria included keeping to the ten-minute time, making sure that the tech was not professional camera equipment nor lighting or staging, but that the equipment was what most students would have access to: a cell phone, tablet, or computer; Internet access, and an account with NSDA to submit the filmed piece once it was done.

Barradas noted that, “The challenging part was maintaining motivation to keep practicing on my piece. It was extremely challenging to be in the emotions of my character when I was performing in front of a camera and not real people.”

This Pratt High School junior also learned that this field is extremely competitive and to get to the top, he had to give it his all.  A quote Barradas told himself at the beginning of the season was "to grow into the best actor I can be, I have to let go.”  Mostly, he said, he had to let go of the nervousness that was holding him back from his best performance.

Colby’s next goal is to break quarter finals (top 30) at NSDA next June as a senior. He plans to help out his forensics team as much as he can so they can prepare well for state competitions next year. Also, his advice to other students would be to “make a bunch of friends. Awards are temporary but the memories you make will last for a life time.”

He also thanked his forensics coaches Rose Beilman, Michelle Popovich and Kadie Clark. 

“Without them,” Barradas said, “my performances are like a blank canvas. With them, my performances become art.”