Tech Speech and debate members claim state championships

Members and supporters of the Tennessee Tech speech and debate team include (from left to right): Gavin Dies, Abby Norsworthy, Amanda Smith, Jacob Metz, Derrick Sarmiento, Madison Davis, Bob Luna, Dr. Bettye Kash, Dr. Graham Kash, Sarah Stansbury, Colin Lafever, Sistina Hammonds, Jonathan Goodwin, Tyler Johnson, Linh Do, Ju Yeong Park, and Isaac Kandel.

COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech’s speech and debate team started off the spring 2019 season with a load of wins, including a few members earning state championships. 

Two tournaments were held in early February: one at Murray State University and the state tournament at Carson-Newman. 

“I’m happy to say that the team was extremely successful and that we have picked up where we left off at the end of last semester,” said Jacob Metz, assistant speech and debate coach. 

The team returned home with 42 different awards from the Murray State tournament and 19 individual awards from the state tournament at Carson-Newman.

Sarah Stansbury and Sistina Hammonds were named the Tennessee state champions in Novice NPDA debate and Tyler Johnson was named the Tennessee state champion in Persuasive Speaking.

In being named the state champion in persuasive speaking, Johnson was invited to compete in the Interstate Oratorical Association Contest set for April 27-28.

“The competition is generally recognized as being the most prestigious speaking competition in the United States,” Metz said. “We are extremely proud of all that Tyler has accomplished and are very excited that he has earned the honor of competing at the Interstate Oratorical Association Contest.” 

Johnson has been involved in speech and debate since high school.

“I was thrilled beyond relief, but also relieved,” Johnson said. “Winning the state championship in persuasive has been a goal of mine ever since I was introduced to the event in high school. Words cannot describe all that I was feeling.”

He was persuaded to join the forensics team by coaches at Cookeville High School.

“I was hesitant due to the fact that I suffer some speech issues caused by my bi-lateral hearing loss,” he said. “So, I lacked the confidence to join and compete on the team there at Cookeville High School.”

The state tournament was the third tournament Hammonds attended.

“I love attending tournaments because I feel my personal performance is much better at tournaments than practice and it’s so much fun to see what I can really do,” she said. “With debate in particular, I enjoy the investment that comes with every topic we receive as this topic determines my successes and my failures.”

Hammonds and Stansbury waited nearly 24 hours after the event to hear if they won.

“Honestly, it seemed too crazy to believe we could actually win every round at a state tournament,” she said. “So, when we found out we had won, it was almost shocking.”

At the Ruby C. Krider and Alumni Open Tournament held at Murray State, the team came home with 38 individual awards. Six of those were first place.

The team also placed first in debate sweepstakes.

“The topics discussed ranged from talking about what the U.S. should do in regards to Venezuela to discussing whether government shutdowns ought to be allowed to discussing whether Thanos did anything wrong in the last Avengers movie,” Metz said. “We discussed numerous more topics beyond that and discussed a wide range of different things.”

Metz credits the team’s success to the hard work members put in year round.

“Our activity functions similarly to a sports team in regards to the amount of work that one must put in to be successful and our students have all put in that level of effort and hard work,” Metz said.

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