July 17, 2019

Webster debate team wins fifth place at nationals

Webster’s Forensics and Debate Team took home 34 honors at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament. 

Story by Breanna Peirce

Webster’s Forensics and Debate team competed at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament and Competition on March 20-24 in New York. The team returned as fifth in the nation, competing with 71 schools.

This was Webster’s second most successful nationals tournament. This year the team came in with 12 members, seven completely new.

“We’ve had a lot of success throughout the history of the program,” Gina Jensen, director of forensics, said. “This year we got such a good core group of people and they’re all really committed to the idea of growing, learning and winning.”

Debate team member Daniela Piazzi was hospitalized due to an ovarian cyst three days before the tournament.

“She wasn’t taking her pain medicine because she wanted to practice,” Jensen said. “She would lay there and just practice in her hospital bed, it was amazing.”

Piazzi had been working on her piece since August. She spoke about the financial crisis in Venezuela. Piazza used statements from Venezuelan women, poems and news reports in her piece, “The Venezuelan Exile.”

The result was an emotional one.

“Even the ones that didn’t speak one word of Spanish were crying and moved by her performance,” Jensen said.

Piazzi went on to win the national championship for Spanish oral presentation, as well as showcase performance. Judges use showcase performances as teaching tools.

Senior and team president Olivia Potter earned the All-American award. Judges chose 10 students based on performance, academics and volunteer services. This is the first time a Webster student received the All-American award in 10 years.

Judges also named Potter national champion for the interviewing category.

“We have a strong core of diverse students willing to work and support each other, and it’s incredible,” Potter said. “I knew win or lose we were going to do great in each of our performances, regardless of results.”

Sophomore John Wallis took home six awards.

“Bringing home trophies is great, but it’s even better when you know you have a whole team behind you cheering you on every step of the way,” Wallis said.

Wallis plans to run for president of Forensics and Debate. Students can use the club as a channel to discuss real world problems, Wallis said.

“Forensics and debate allows one to use their voice to speak out for those who aren’t being heard,” Wallis said. “It is an activity in which the participants effect real change in the world around them.”

10 students came home with an award from this tournament for a total of 34 honors.

“As president, I’ve always said that it never mattered to me if I lost every tournament. What I’ve always cared about is how the team performed and the attitudes about their performance,” Potter said. “This includes positive self-talk and building up confidence in each teammate as competitors, as students, and as people.”

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