Three debaters head to Nationals

t BHS trio will compete in two forensic events.

Adrian Sampson had a tough debate – with himself.

Should he enter the National Speech Tournament qualifier in Duo-Interpretation with partner Ariana Taylor-Stanley, or or in Public Forum with partner Riley Woodward-Pratt?

“It was a happy ending,” said Ben de Guzman, English teacher and debate coach. “All three qualified (for Nationals).”

The Bainbridge High School Debate Team is sending an unprecedented three students to the National Speech Tournament Beehive Nationals hosted by the National Forensic League in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 13-18.

BHS belongs to the Puget Sound District encompassing 19 schools. Only two students can qualify for Nationals in each debate category. Last year, debater Sean Fraga was the first in recent memory to qualify for Nationals.

Senior Riley Woodward-Pratt qualified for Student Congress, where debaters emulate Congress arguing extemporaneously for or against bills and resolutions.

Sophomore Ariana Taylor-Stanley and junior Adrian Sampson qualified as a team for Duo-Interpretation, in which the two play all the characters of a short play.

Five other debaters also qualified as alternates for nationals: Sean Fraga, Meghan Gladstein, Matthew Reinert., Rebecca Sivitz and James M. Wagner.

On the spot

Each event calls on a different set of forensic skills, from extemporaneous debate to precision performance.

In Student Congress, each participant is given a rank by a judge, and their performance is voted on by fellow debaters. Those receiving the fewest votes are dropped from the listing and rounds of voting continue until there are clear winners.

Of his qualifying, “It was purely emotional,” Woodward-Pratt said. “I don’t remember much.”

Woodward-Pratt says he was drawn to debate, because “I really like politics. I appreciate the flexibility of the format. With the Student Congress I have a range of choices of what to debate, and (whether to take) pro or con.”

There is no obligation to even speak, Woodward-Pratt says, so “it’s hard to get nervous.” Woodward-Pratt says that besides writing a bill or amendment of his own, he does not really prepare for tournaments, since Student Congress members frequently get their packet of 20 bills and resolutions, submitted by the debaters, on tournament day.

“Generally the people who do it extemporaneously are better, because you’re not reading,” Woodward-Pratt said. “Often (there are) rebuttals, so you have to think on the spot.”

When asked to assess the Democratic presidential candidates as debaters, Woodward-Pratt said, “They don’t tend to be good speakers. They don’t have fluency, or will use a wrong word and not correct themselves.

“I like Kucinich and Sharpton. Sharpton is an effective speaker. Kucinich doesn’t obfuscate and has a steady and clear style. He speaks on what he feels and (that) appeals to me emotionally.”

Power of two

In Duo-Interpretation, a two-person team stands side by side without touching or looking at the other, and without aid of costumes, makeup or props. Judges look for body language, clarity of characterization and use of language.

Taylor-Stanley and Sampson perform 8-10 minutes from “Dr. Fritz, or: The Forces of Light” by David Ives. In the play, an American tourist in a foreign country gets food poisoning and goes to see Dr. Fritz, who is actually a schizophrenic owner of a souvenir shop.

Movements of each character are perfectly coordinated with the other like a vivid mime show with voice. When the “shopkeeper” leans in uncomfortably close, the “tourist” leans back in near revulsion.

Taylor Stanley and Sampson competed in three rounds against different sets of teams, and were ranked against members of the round. The sum of rankings from each round determined the winner. Taylor-Stanley and Sampson said they were very surprised to find out they had won.

“The teacher helping us, Mr. (Jeff) Gans, found out early but didn’t tell us,” Taylor-Stanley said.

To prepare for Nationals, Taylor-Stanley and Sampson say they will “rehearse it again and again for anyone who will watch.”

While Sampson says the team, which has seen a new debate coach annually for the past three or four years, is “just getting back on its feet,” de Guzman is pleased with this year’s accomplishments.

“We’ve been to a lot more tournaments than in the past,” the coach said. “It’s nice to always bring 12-15 (to tournaments), and we’ve done really well this year.

“They’re all really motivated to do well. The best thing (is) the award ceremony – seeing how well they do.”

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