SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School Speech and Debate Team took third place at a competition last weekend in Cheyenne.
The tournament was the second of the year and individual winners included Dylan Lindly, who took a second-place award as well as a first-place award with his duo partner Judy Chen. In addition, duos Isaac Gray and Lachlan Brennan and Loren Migrants and Jaden Magestro took third-place awards.
“Speech is a lot like track. We compete individually but at the end of the day it is a combined team score,” Lindly explained.
Speech and debate consists of 10 competition events. Event areas include dramatic, humorous, poetry or duet interpretation, original oratory, debate and more. Students can compete as individuals or as part of a duo.
In all but one of the 10 competition categories, individuals or duos are given their speech or debate topic several days or weeks in advance and have time to research. However, they do not know which side of the debate they will be on until the day of the competition when a coin is flipped, making thorough research and evidence gathering on both sides of an issue necessary.
“You are supposed to be evenly balanced on both sides of the debate, equal knowledge, equal evidence,” Lindly said. “Evidence is key. We cannot be biased. When you are building a case you can’t be biased and you are hoping the judge doesn’t bring in their preconceived ideas with them.
“Everyone is judged on how you debate or interpret, the way you speak, how memorized you are, how fluent you are, your eye contact, hand gestures and other movement besides hand gestures and the quality of what you are saying,” he continued. “And the validity of the evidence and how well you source things.”
Lindly is in his third year on the team and he has qualified for nationals. He has also actively recruited new, younger students to the team sharing his excitement and enthusiasm for the competition.
“I like to compete,” he said. “It is one of those things you show off how much you know. I have always enjoyed politics, so debate was an easy fit.”
“The only reason I think I wasn’t doing speech before is because I was involved athletically,” added Isaac Gray, a second-year team member, who was previously on the basketball team. “The nice thing that I realize now about it is there is always a limit people will reach in athletics. Not everyone is cut out to be a professional athlete and go to the NFL or NBA. But speech and debate is something that if you are willing to work at it and willing to learn, the sky is the limit.
“That is the nice thing about debate,” he added. “You’ve got a trust in your practice and believe in yourself, believing you are ready and knowing you’re are ready. That is something that carries on throughout your life. I learned hard work and dedication through sports, but I feel it is much more obvious how speech and debate relates to the world and correlates to the skills you need.”
The team is coached by Marla Hinrichs, who also teaches English and literature. In her 14 years as coach, her students have made it to national competition 10 times. She also participated in speech and debate as a high school and college student and knows firsthand the benefits it gives participants.
“What I like about speech is it is for really outgoing kids and also really shy kids,” she said. “That is who I was in high school. I was really shy but speech created a more outgoing personality and I gained confidence.
“That’s what I like the most, especially when I see kids four years later,” she continued. “They are better thinkers, better speakers. They are more mature; they know how to handle competition. It is kind of a ruthless sport because you are judged for everything. So they learn to deal with loss and that makes them drive for the win. These are good kids. My speech kids are good kids every year. They make Sheridan look good every time we got out on the road. It is exciting.”