Pratt students enter virtual live national forensics competition

Rose Beilman
Pratt Tribune
Pratt High School students, from left, Colby Barradas, Alyssa Green, Darrien Cox and Hogan Thompson put on their virtual live smiles for recent national forensics competition.

June is the month for National Speech and Debate Association's national forensics competition, and this year the Greenback is seeing many firsts as they perform in the virtual live competition from June 13 to 19. Six students at the high school and middle school level have spent the last two months preparing pieces for competition, in a process that is demanding and challenging for them.

Pratt will have four high school students competing for the first time in years, since Priscilla Greene taught in the 1980s and early '90s. Senior Colby Barradas will compete once again at nationals, but instead of performing Dramatic Interpretation as he did in 2020, he will perform a Program Oral Interpretation about the nature of living through the pandemic, as seen through personal accounts and in comparison with Daniel Dafoe's Journal of the Plague Year when the plague hit London in 1722. This is the first time Pratt has brought a POI to nationals or state.

Senior Hogan Thompson and sophomore Alyssa Green will perform in two competitions: live virtual duo acting and recorded, asynchronous, split-screen duo acting. It's the same piece modified for different performance approaches, and their duo is the first Pratt has brought to nationals. Their selection is a funny duet about how break-ups can be the worst.

From the high school, the fourth student to compete will be junior Darrian Cox, who is performing a Dramatic Interpretation about a teen father whose family is embroiled in substance abuse. Cox will compete this week, and then he'll turn around to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy this summer in New York City.

All four of these Greenback performers had to compete in a regional competition in order to make it to nationals, and after two days of rigorous competition at the West Kansas NSDA national qualifying tournament, they earned a place at the nationals meet.

For the NSDA's mammoth tourney, 1,057 schools will compete, with close to 5,000 entries from almost 4,000 students who represent 52 state or territories. The four high school students will compete in preliminary rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 15 and 16, and from those first five rounds on those days, the competition winnows down until there are only six competing in each event in finals.

Another first for the Greenbacks lies with a younger set of students. For the first time ever, Liberty Middle School competed in the asynchronous, video-recorded competition at nationals, the NSDA 2021 Middle School Challenge, from June 7 to 10. Caroline Drake, a seventh grader, created an informative speech about her favorite hobby, raising chickens, while Jesse Kemper, an eighth grader who will be on the PHS forensics team next year, acted out a humorous solo about "Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night above Ground" by Richard Peck. These two middle school students competed in a field of over 1,500 entries, 925 students and 194 schools with 35 states represented. In each of their events, they competed against over 100 other students.

The Pratt team had to provide several judges for each level of competition, and so 2021 assistant coaches, Michelle Popovich and Kadie Clark will judge for the high school level. At the middle school level, 2022 assistant coach Angela McGraw judged last week. In addition, several high school students with two years of experience competing were able to judge, including seniors Kylee Hopkins and Ruby Howell and junior Madeline Drake. The team is coached by Rose Beilman, teacher at Pratt High.