St Clair Speech and Debate Go to States!


Maanasa Reddy, Assistant Editor

Public speaking is an activity often more feared than death. Yet, the Upper St. Clair Speech and Debate club has more than 100 active members who seem to love this fearsome activity.

Each Saturday, speech and debate competitors attend a tournament to perform their event. For example, those in the “Original Oratory” competition deliver a 10 minute speech about a topic personal to them. On the other hand, a Public Forum debater will debate fellow competitors several times. 

However, the tournament students set their eyes on is the Pennsylvania High School Speech League State Tournament. Or, as most people call it, “states.” 

This year, the tournament was held from March 13th to March 14th. The first day of the tournament was for those who qualified for the state tournament, and the second day was for those who got to quarter final rounds or semi final rounds.

The competition was difficult given that the students there were among the best in all of Pennsylvania. Even more arduous, speech and debate tournaments were entirely online due to COVID-19. So, speech and debate competitors had to deliver all of their hard work through a screen, which was  an added difficulty.

Aniketh Vivekanandan, Parliamentary debater, remarked, “Technology and WiFi issues made it really hard to compete this year.”

Similarly, Jasmine Dietiker, fellow Parliamentary and Lincoln-Douglas debater, added, “Not knowing if people could hear me was a struggle.”

Despite all of the new troubles that the 2020-2021 year brought, students performed remarkably well at the state tournament, as a result of their lengthy efforts. 

Overall, Upper St. Clair’s team came 3rd in debate, 1st in speech, and 2nd overall. Considering these students were competing against the best in the state, this is a phenomenal accomplishment. 

Mr. Edwards, team coach, remarked, “Words can’t express how proud I am of our team this year.” He continued in regard to the changes that came with the pandemic:“They are so adaptable to all the changes the world threw at them and earned richly deserved success this season that culminated with their performance at States.” 

Indeed, many students found success during this season, even students in their first year of speech and debate.

Freshman Aarav Patil came 5th in Pennsylvania with their eloquent speech about LGBTQ+ history and suffering. Titled, “Are You a Friend of Dorothy,” which is a historical phrase used by gay men to ask other men discreetly and safely if they were also gay.

When asked about their experience going to the state tournament, they replied, “To be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure I could even make it that far; I mean, just to be presented with the opportunity to be able to go to states was incredible on its own.” 

Patil’s competitive event is called “Informative Speaking” in which students deliver a 10 minute speech about a topic of their choosing. The purpose of the speech is primarily to educate an audience. Competitors also have to listen to each other’s speeches, which grants a unique opportunity to hear the stories of others. 

Further, Aarav revealed this about their fellow opponents: “They were all such talented and outspoken writers that I felt proud to even be considered a competent speaker among the brilliant finalists I had the honor of competing against.”

Students pour their time, energy, and passion into crafting the best speech and debate case possible. For many speakers and debaters, this is much more than just an activity. It is a way to express themselves. Speakers are able to tell their story or the stories of others. Debaters can fight for their side on international issues. Last and certainly not least, students in interpretation events have the opportunity to demonstrate their acting and their emotions. Patil reflected about their experience with this activity: “Speech and Debate, though I was hesitant to join at first, now feels like something I couldn’t do without.” Speech and debate truly is for everyone. Students who are afraid of public speaking before this club are able to transform their abilities by simply trying. Some are going to states, and even nationals.

No matter the outcome, competing at the state tournament is a high achievement. It is one that  is extremely difficult without immense effort. These Panthers deserve great applause for their brilliant work, even through a pandemic! Great job Panthers!