RANDOLPH, NJ- Talent, perseverance and friendship were some of the themes during this year’s end-of-season RHS Speech and Debate banquet, held on April 20th and sponsored by the Parents Booster Association. About 75 guests gathered in the new Randolph Diner banquet room for the event, which marked the end of the Speech and Debate season and celebrated the accomplishments of this year’s team.
The RHS Speech and Debate team placed 6th overall in New Jersey and 5th overall in the Newark Catholic Forensic League this year. There were a record number of individual placements at the Harvard national tournament, with four students reaching elimination rounds, and junior Bryn Bennett placing 7th overall in the Program Oral Interpretation event. Senior Sam Halpern won the New Jersey state championship in Congressional Debate. Additionally, seniors Amy Pu and Shefali Das, as well as juniors Bryn Bennett and Caitlyn Dempsey, earned the Academic All-American achievement award from the National Speech and Debate Association in recognition of both their level of achievement as speech and debate competitors as well as their overall academic successes.
Addressing the audience, Humanities Supervisor Ben Horwitz, who had previously served as Speech and Debate head coach, commended the students for choosing such a valuable endeavor, which not only teaches speaking skills, but life skills as well.
Peter Quinn, Randolph’s head coach, waxed poetic when addressing the team. He acknowledged the conflicting emotions felt by many when balancing the intense workload required to succeed, and the immense enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from putting in those hours. Mr. Quinn presented the seniors with honor cords to wear at graduation, as Speech and Debate is not just a team, but an honor society as well. He also distributed pins from the National Forensics League based on degree of accomplishment earned.
Debate Coach Kristin Poff and Assistant Speech Coach Victoria Anllo each addressed the team as well. Ms. Poff said she hoped that her own children might grow up in the model of the fine young adults whom she coached this year. Ms. Anllo expressed her gratitude for the welcoming environment that greeted her, given that this was her first year working with the team.
Outgoing officers Amy Pu (President), Ashley Huang (Vice President of Debate), and Bryn Bennett (Vice President of Speech) shared their memories of fun, friendships, challenges, and personal growth from their years on the team. The student leaders described how the lessons they learned through Speech and Debate surpassed any single win during a round or any trophy awarded at the conclusion of a tournament.
The audience was treated to a performance by senior Shefali Das, whose original oratory “Grit for Breakfast” discussed the importance of perseverance and the benefits of always striving to reach your goals even when they don’t come easily. It was a fitting metaphor for the challenging nature of Speech and Debate.
For four team members, the season is not yet over. RHS will send two competitors to each of two national championship tournaments this spring. Caitlyn Dempsey (Oral Interpretation) and Claudia Pietrus (Original Oratory) will represent Randolph at the NCFL Grand National tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. Shefali Das (Informational Speaking) and Lauren Spencer (Dramatic Interpretation) will represent Randolph at the NSDA National tournament in Birmingham, Alabama.