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Speech and Debate recieve high rank despite pandemic

Weber State University’s Speech and Debate team placed in the Gold Tier in the Northwestern Forensic Conference for both speech and IPDA debate, despite only having eight students on their team, no sponsors and no website. Usually, this feat takes years to conquer; the WSU team did it in their first.

Image from Kayla Griffin
WSU's Speech and Debate team placed in the Gold Tier in the Northwestern Forensic Conference for both speech and IPDA debate. (Image from Kayla Griffin)

All eight students placed in an even across debate and individual speaker awards.

Jazmyne Olson, one of the members on the team, took first in the Extemporaneous Speaking and Novice Impromptu categories and rated the best overall competitor among all novice and junior students in both speech and debate. She also took second place for the Orv Iverson award was given out at the for her excellence. She was ranked the best overall competitor among all novice and junior students in speech and debate.

Sophie Beck took first place in Novice Informative Speaking and the second-place overall speaker award. Rebecca Brown took first place in Junior Prose. Brad Baker took fifth in Open Dramatic Interpretation and Top Junior in individual speaker points. Akir Rowe took second in Novice Persuasive Speaking and second in Novice Extemporaneous Speaking.

Krystiana Davis took sixth in Novice Persuasive Speaking. Kyle Housley took third in Junior Prose, second in Novice Informative Speaking, first in Open Dramatic interpretation and Top Novice in overall speaker points.

In debate, Davis took fifth, Akir Rowe took fourth and Sophie Beck took second for speaker awards. In one-on-one debate events, Housley and Rowe were quarterfinalists, Baker and Olson were semifinalists and Beck took second place.

The team focused on broad and sometimes controversial topics such as social justice issues, racism, disabilities and sexuality.

Olson explained that their routine is meeting every Wednesday, practicing speeches to each other and sometimes individual meetings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many changes to the way groups participate in things to protect everyone’s health. This has affected the social and in-person aspect within the team and has been very challenging to uphold.

“The dynamic of being online was hard to adjust to because body language is everything, and over zoom, you don’t have that experience,” Olson explained.

Despite these changes, Olson described her coaches, Head Coach Mark Galaviz and Volunteer Coach Kayla Griffin, as always pushing them to go further and to succeed in full.

Galaviz was a speech and debate competitor for Boise State University and was even the 2015 national champion for Prose Speaking. He is motivated by “the opportunity to start something here at Weber, from scratch, and to help folks use words as a way to access power,” Galaviz said.

Galaviz was pleased to see his team’s win but was not surprised because of all the hard work they were putting into practice.

Griffin, his wife, used to compete during undergraduate where she met Galaviz.

“I like helping students find their voice,” she said.

Griffin was knocked off her feet by the team’s triumph but also feels being in a pandemic may be hindering the development of strong public speaking skills without a live audience. This is something the team is trying to grapple with.

Galaviz agreed with this, explaining that the in-person component is essential for learning how to negotiate and to use all factors of communication. Doing things over the internet has made it tough to not being able to experience other teams and schools.

The team will be competing at the Talk Hawk Invitational from Feb. 12 to the 14.

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Lucas Moore
Lucas Moore, News reporter

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