After succeeding at the State level, PCC‘s Speech and Debate (Forensics) continued to well-represent both themselves and their campus by ranking third nationwide, earning a prestigious team award called “Team Bronze,” in the Phi Rho Pi Nationals competition in Washington D.C. during spring break.
The equilibrium, team support, and positivity beams throughout C-103 every Tuesday and Thursday during class, as well as outside of class hours. Students of the Forensics team are always down the C building basement level practicing their speeches, giving each other feedback in the process, and enjoying each others company.
An important fundamental that transpired and inspired the Forensics team was the fact that they were headed into the Phi Rho Pi Nationals with only eight students instead of the usual 16 because of their dramatic budget cuts.
The coaches and students took their budget cuts as a challenge. The Forensics team went to the Nationals supportive of one another, ready to take on opponents from around the country to disclose why the Forensics team is, as coach Jay Arnston described “the best kept secret at PCC.”
Head coaches Allan Axibal-Cordero and Arnston were saddened to know that budget cuts prevented them from bringing as many talented students as they wanted.
“It’s frustrating when you only have to take most of them and not all of them. Not because I think it makes it less competitive, but you’re basically saying ‘Yeah they deserve it, they’re good, smart and talented’ but budget means you could only take so many,” Axibal-Cordero said. “I want to provide as many students with the opportunity as possible because I think it’s extremely educational for them.”
“Our budget was a little bit less than last year, about $4000 to 5000 less,” Coach Arnston explained. “Getting your budget cut is always difficult because you end up having less participation because you can’t send the people you want to.”
Although not everyone could participate in the event, Coach Arnston was happy that the Forensics team were somehow triumphant with less funding, describing it as an “anomaly” that the whole team were able to hit the jackpot.
First-year Forensics member and Nationals competitor Dilan Wijesinghe, stressed that “ultimately every person on that list, [the coaches] saw a gold in each of our names.”
On the other hand, for debater Diamond Or, it was her second time around in Nationals but she still expected competition to be tough. She received bronze in the informative event, that asked to thoroughly explain a complex topic and also participated in a persuasive event and a speech to entertain event.
“I think it will test you, it really does because you’re competing at a National level.” Or explained. “It’s stressful but it’s fun. If you love Speech and Debate, people think it’s a weird thing.”
Or’s favorite speech in the event was speech to entertain for the reason being that it lessened the tension Phi Rho Pi Nationals usually gives.
AJ Crawford, having experience in both State and National events, understood that going into Phi Rho Pi, they were not only going to face fierce competitors, but unpredictable judges as well. He prepared by constantly practicing his speech delivery, being up to date with statistics and current events.
“It’s a little bit different than competing in the State championship in California because you get a much broader [amount] of judges that come from different states, ” Crawford thoroughly said. “What’s interesting about Phi Rho Pi is the need to adapt to different judging philosophies, so it’s not necessarily harder, so much it’s very different. It’s always a gamble at Nationals based off of the judging pool.”
James Shotwell, 15, was a first timer at Nationals and one of the two youngest competitors Forensics brought to Phi Rho Pi. Shotwell was in awe that he was able to compete in Washington.
“I went in thinking it was going to be like any other tournament, I didn’t want to get myself psyched out thinking ‘oh snap,’” Shotwell said. “I went into it thinking ‘this is a tournament, try and do your best,’ but had no expectations.”
Recently, the Forensics team held their end-of-the-semester showcase in campus where they delivered speeches they’ve been working on throughout the semester. The event charged a $5 entry for students and $10 for general admission. It was filled with friends, family, alumni, and curious spectators.
The showcase raised about $600 enough to subsidize money that goes into feeding most of the students throughout their tournaments and help the current reduced budget.
Furthermore, the Speech and Debate team will also be switching roles with the judges and will be hosting the Intramural showcase on May 19 at PCC. Regular PCC students and students taking a speech class can partake in the event, and the winner will receive a $100 reward.