Red Devils shine at online State Speech and Debate tourney

The Evanston High School speech and debate team are shown here following a pre-COVID-19 tournament in Jackson. The 2019-20 State Speech and Debate Tournament was recently held online, with Aidan McGuire, Cole Francis and Kaleb Horrocks qualifying for the finals in their respective categories. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — High school students across Wyoming recently participated in the first-ever online state speech and Debate Tournament.

After school events and activities were canceled due to COVID-19, speech and debate coaches across the state worked together to gain approval to proceed with the state tournament using computer technology and the Zoom app.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association sanctioned the event and the University of Wyoming debate team hosted and ran the event. The tournament took place April 22-25.  Judges were recruited across the nation.

Two Evanston High School students, Aidan McGuire and Cole Francis, competing as partners in Public Forum Debate placed in the top eight in the state finals. EHS student Kaleb Horrocks made it to the Congressional Debate finals but did not place.

“It was weird competing on Zoom as there were some tech issues; like the microphone disconnecting and stuff.  Also, in normal public forum debate you can ask to see a hard copy of the evidence presented; with it being on-line you just have to trust the other person’s statement of evidence,” McGuire said.

McGuire said he thought it was “cool” so many people had worked together to get the state competition to take place on-line.  He said they were lucky as speech competitors could more easily adapt to competing over Zoom than athletes who had their events cancelled.

Francis said, “I liked the way it ran so smoothly with only a few times of the technology cutting out.  It was easier to prepare and write things down without being in front of the judges. Interaction was reduced by not being able to see body language of the judges.  And communication between me and Aidan was limited as we were both in our own homes on our own computers.”

The other competition McGuire competed in was Oratory which had to be recorded ahead of time and sent to be judged.  McGuire placed 6th in the state finals for oratory. 

“I liked that I had four days to prepare and record so I could watch my recording and see what changes I might want to make before sending it in.  However, once it is sent in I couldn’t learn from the judges’ feedback like in a normal tournament and adapt before the next round of judges,” McGuire said.

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