Grossmont College 31st Annual Speech and Debate Tournament

Grossmont College students at 31st debate tournament

Grossmont Speech and Debate team performed exceptionally this past tournament

Janelle Carter, Staff Writer

December 12, 2023

This past fall season was filled with remarkable achievements from Grossmont’s Speech and Debate team. Grossmont College hosted and participated in its 31st annual Speech and Debate Tournament from Nov. 10 to 12. Grossmont joined 20 teams from various two- and four-year colleges and universities to compete for three days over a weekend.

A few Griffins took home several awards from the tournament. Both Chris Kazanchi and Van Wheelan struck gold for the Novice International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Debate. Sophia Lepari won silver for the Novice IPDA Debate and Sierra Yale took home bronze in the Novice IPDA Debate. 

Wheelan received second in Open Speech to Entertain, and Jadine Montanez placed third in Open Poetry. There were two finalists, Joshua O’Neal for Open Drama, and Wheelan for Open Impromptu.

Multiple events were happening during the tournament, such as persuasive speaking, impromptu speaking, after-dinner speaking, extemporaneous speaking, communication analysis, program oral interpretation, dramatic interpretation and poetry interpretation. 

Having competed for Grossmont College for two years, Wheelan has enjoyed being part of a team.

 “It’s been an absolute delight. It is truly the most friendliest sport that I ever engaged with,” Wheelan said. “It’s given me opportunities that nothing else in my life ever has. I was able to go to Japan last year through our program so it’s been absolutely amazing and I recommend it for everyone.”

Speech and Debate allows teams the opportunity to have the experience of competing in different environments. They engage in friendly competitions to not only show off the skills they have developed during their practice, but to also learn techniques other students utilize in the same space when they are competing with one another.

Juliana Bertin is a second-year student at Grossmont and a first-time competitor. She said her experience being part of the team has helped boost her confidence in speaking in front of an audience. 

“I love this so much. It’s so much fun. I’ve never liked public speaking, but it was a skill that I wanted to learn to improve my life,” Bertin said. “I feel like I’ve come a long way in just a couple of months, and I’ve been having so much more fun than I ever realized that I could have speaking in front of people.”

Bertin is an example of how many students who join speech and debate aren’t required to have previous experience in the sport. Any student is more than welcome to join. Speech and debate may come across as intimidating at first because one might not know what these competitions entail.

The options of topics students can compete in is what makes being part of the speech and debate team fun for many. Students can either lean toward one or both aspects of the sport. With debate, the student would have to answer more serious, complex questions to defend their argument. However, speeches can be more on the playful side. The students apply their knowledge in a speech with their own flair and sense of humor. 

The sport has range, and that’s what makes it special and entertaining for many students.

The students practice a balance between having to appear professional but simultaneously, the sport allows them to be themselves and for their personalities to shine through.

For example, I watched one of the first round of students participating in impromptu speaking during the tournament. In the room were Wheelan and a few other students from different schools. They were given a prompt and had to come up with three examples based on the prompt. In a way, it was an unprepared speech and the students had to utilize their own knowledge to deliver their message. I heard examples ranging from Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” to Kuzco from “Emperor’s New Groove,” “Lucifer” the TV show, and much more. The energy the students brought to the floor during their speeches was intriguing and entertaining. It makes you want to not only keep watching, but it makes you want to join in on the fun of it all.

Let’s be real, as a student, it can be challenging to stand in front of others to give a presentation because, in general, having to convey a message in front of a crowd could be anxiety-inducing. However, the skill is developed through practice and bravery. The Griffins Speech and Debate team has been successful in their competitions because of the time and effort they put in to become better speakers. It’s a skill that is commonly overlooked and yet, it’s one that these Griffins are going to have an upper hand in utilizing in the future.

Speech and Debate have opened the door for students to become critical thinkers and effective communicators. They learn how to use their voice to persuade their point of view to others and speak their truth in front of an audience. 

As the team’s head coach, Communications Department Co-Chair Roxanne Tuscany expressed how proud she felt of the progress her students have made throughout the semester.

“This is a new team. We have 15 new competitors and they have been doing remarkably good work and have moved so fast to being successful,” Tuscany said. “I’m just really impressed with this group of new students that we hope will continue for another year with us and do incredible work.”

Congratulations to the coaches and team! Their hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. 

Are you a Griffin interested in Speech and Debate? Don’t be shy, go for it! Being part of this team will give you the chance to be creative and engage in friendly competitions in the state and possibly in other countries. You got what it takes. What are you waiting for? Join now!

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