Speech and Debate team head to Nationals


Evelyn Wang

Nationally recognized Speech and Debate team have no plans to slow down.

Unlike most competitive teams at Southern Lehigh, the Speech and Debate Team has no off-season, running through early August for preparation till late July for the National Speech and Debate Association’s Annual Competition. Yet as we approach summer vacation, the number of practices and competition slows down, giving the team time to reflect on their season.

A few members cited Harvard University’s annual tournament as their season highlight.

“Harvard as a whole was a ton of fun; The conversations, jokes, and insanity was great,” sophomore Orrin Bossert said. “[Program Oral Interpretation] was so insightful and entertaining as to how I should construct my speech next year. [Informative Speaking] was super educational and gave me ideas for future speeches.” 

All the fun aside, however, the challenges faced by the team this year are worth mentioning. Coming out of 2021, where all tournaments went online over unstable networks and buggy websites, tournaments in 2022 jumped between being online and in-person. Competitors and coaches had to get the hang of the constant traveling, in-person competing and judging, and any hiccups along the way.

“The team is a bit smaller than it was pre-pandemic, but half of the team [was] completely new,” head coach Mr. David Long said. “I’d say the challenge there was getting team members rolling with their events and seeing what they can do.” 

Small but mighty, the team claimed sweepstakes at multiple competitions, sending several students to the national championships and two seniors Isabella Hoang, and Evelyn Wang, to the Kentucky University Tournament of Champions in April.

“It was my first time being able to qualify, and to go to a national tournament of that caliber meant a lot to me,” Wang said, “especially because I never expected to even be able to go.”

Many of the team had not had a free Saturday in months, balancing their time to maintain constant practices, mentor the middle school division, and attend weekly tournaments. Being at the end gives them time to look ahead. 

“My goal is to advance as far as I possibly can in these [last] two tournaments and also speak about the topics that are most important to me,” Wang said.

Going forward, I would like to qualify for [the National Speech and Debate Association’ Tournament] in one of my main events. I also would like to break further at larger tournaments such as Harvard or Princeton,” said Bossert. “With the knowledge I have obtained by competing this year on topics such as interpretation [script] construction, visual aids, and voice inflection, I think I can do this.”

The most bittersweet part of the year approaches the team quickly: their senior banquet, where seniors perform their pieces and speeches from the year and impart their advice and goodbyes to their underclassmen.

“Quite a few of the underclassmen have had very good seasons this year, so it’s always neat to see where they go next year,” Coach Long said. “As is expected, we will miss the seniors, but I always look forward to seeing them come back and visit and catch us all up on how they’re doing.”