PMHS forensics speech team sends four to nationals

Neil Schliefer

The Pelham Memorial High School forensics speech team had a successful season, sending four students to Nationals in Dallas. Henry Driesen, Issac Blackburn, Nicholas Lieggi and Rebecca Jacobson were all national qualifiers.

“This was my first time making it to nationals for this league, so I’m really excited,” said Driesen. “I compete in a challenging category, so I’m anxious to see how I do against the rest of the nation’s best,”

Throughout the season, many qualifications were earned by PMHS students. At a tournament at Harvard University, Blackburn qualified for The Tournament of Champions, which will be held at the University of Kentucky. Blackburn qualified for Congressional Debate.

This past weekend, PMHS hosted the National Speech and Debate Association district qualifier. Lieggi and Blackburn each qualified for Congressional Debate in the House of Representatives, and Driesen qualified for United States Extemporaneous Speaking. As well, Jacobson qualified for Programmed Oral Interpretation, while Georgia Connolly was named the alternate in Programmed Oral Interpretation. Lieggi and Blackburn, as well as Ben Glickman, also helped win the Congressional Debate Sweepstakes, for the second year running.

“Overall I definitely had to work harder this year than last year,” said sophomore Sophia Leung. “I was generally busier and would get in my own head at tournaments, so I only just qualified for states this past weekend at our full qual day tournament in Pelham. Basically, all year we go to local tournaments where, if you place high enough, you receive a half qualification for the State Championships in April. If you don’t have two half qualifications by the time you’ve gone through most of the tournaments, full qual day gives you the opportunity to win a full qualification in just one tournament. My category is Declamation, so I memorize and perform another person’s speech. This year, I actually was able to use a speech from a Pelham graduate, Omar Gouda, which was a really cool way to connect to the piece. For me, it’s mainly just repetition that gets me more confident with my pieces. If I’m able to identify with them and understand them, I find that I perform better.”

Throughout the whole season for the speech team, several members qualified for the New York State Forensics League Championships. Lieggi, Blackburn, Eliza Bratone, Nadine Leesang and Josh Handelman all qualified for Congressional Debate. Tommy Roche and Jack Morrell both qualified for Extemporaneous Speaking, Roche in JV and Morrell in Varsity. Leung and Emily Kalyvas qualified for Declamation, while Connolly qualified in both JV Oral Interpretation and Programmed Oral Interpretation. Jacobson, Margot Philips and Sophia Tahan each also qualified for JV Oral Interpretation. Thirteen qualified so far, already surpassing the eight Pelham students who attended states last year.

Their next tournament will be qualifiers for the National Catholic Forensics League’s Grand National Tournament, which will be March 16. The qualifiers for the state championships will compete in early April, while the four who qualified for NSDA Nationals will continue through late June.