WBHS Forensics students celebrate successful season

By Debbie Adams

Forensics and Debate students at William Byrd High School celebrated a successful season of performances and competition with an ice cream social awards ceremony in the school cafeteria on April 22.

Faculty advisors Alex Gunn and Marisa Arrieta welcomed the “wonderful competitors” and several faculty members to the ceremony showcasing the awards students have accumulated—in a year with many challenges from required face coverings to social distancing to virtual performances.

Forensics and Debate students were recognized at an awards ceremony on April 22. Shown left to right are faculty advisor Alex Gunn, with seniors Urunna Anyanwu, Andrea Gonzalez, Catie Dullaghan, Nick Boksa, and faculty advisor Marisa Arrieta. (photos by Debbie Adams)

Forensic categories in which students compete include: Impromptu Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Extemp Commentary, Constitutional, Storytelling, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Lincoln-Douglass, Public Forum, and Legislative Debate.

First-year debaters recognized included Jenny Nguyen, who was presented with her National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) first year certificate and pin. She competed in the Lincoln-Douglas category this year.

Kenna Sarver and Matan Morse competed in the Public Forum category during their first year as debaters and were also presented with their first year NSDA certificates and pins.

Freshman Forensics students honored included:

Sydney Blewett who received her first year NSDA certificate and pin. She participated in several different categories during the year, in particular the Humorous Interpretation category.

Sydney Blewett (center) with faculty advisors Alex Gunn (on left) and Marisa Arrieta

Olaedo Anyanwu who chose the Storytelling category and as a first-year competitor competed in the VHSL Regions and advanced to Super Regions. She received her first year NSDA certificate and pin. She was previously awarded her ribbon for placing in regions.

Olaedo Anyanwu

Sophomore Forensics students recognized included Holly Mills who competed with Latriva Pierce in a Serious Dramatic Duo piece. Mills received her first year pin that she was unable to receive in 2020 due to COVID.

Holly Mills

Sophomore Latriva Pierce competed in the VHSL Regions, Super Regions, and was state runner-up. She was presented with her first year pin and certificate from last year and an NSDA Seal of Honor. She was previously awarded her ribbon from Super Regions in the Serious Dramatic Interpretation category.

Latriva Pierce

Sophomore Ellie Panko competed in VHSL Regions, Super Regions, and was also a state runner-up. She received her first year pin, a WBHS Letter, an NSDA Seal of Honor, and her first-place ribbon from regions in the Impromptu category.

Ellie Panko

Four seniors were honored. Whitney Puckett, who was their Forensics coach at William Byrd before leaving for a position at Hollins University, presented graduation cords to:

Nick Boksa, who received a bar for two or more years of competing in Forensics and a graduation cord.

Nick Boksa with faculty advisors Alex Gunn, former Forensics Coach Whitney Puckett, and Marisa Arrieta

Catie Dullaghan, who was presented with a bar, a Seal of Honor, and a graduation cord. She competed this year in VHSL Regions and Super Regions. She was previously awarded a ribbon for placing at regions in the Prose category.

Former Forensics coach Whitney Puckett (on right) presents graduation cords to Catie Dullaghan as faculty advisor Alex Gunn looks on.

Andrea Gonzalez, who competed in VHSL Regions, Super Regions (second place), and placed fourth in Prose at the state competition. She received a bar and graduation cord. She was previously awarded a ribbon for placing in regions.

Andrea Gonzalez

Urunna Anyanwu, who competed in VHSL Regions, Super Regions (first place), and placed second in Humorous Interpretation at the state competition. She was presented with the bar, cord, and awarded the second place medallion for state.

Urunna Anyanwu

“Congratulations to you all and we are very proud of the hard work you each put in this season,” said Arrieta. “All of our tournaments have been virtual this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, which our students quickly adapted to and have done very well.”

After the awards ceremony, several students performed pieces they had competed with, as well as never before seen performances—all riveting, some hysterically funny, some extremely poignant.

  • Latriva Pierce, “My Tiny Dancers Hands.”
  • Catie Dullaghan, “Scarlet Ibis.”
  • Olaedo Anyanwu, “Emeraldalicious.”
  • Andrea Gonzalez, “The Prodigy” and “A Modest Proposal.”
  • Urunna Anyanwu, “A Zero’s Journey” and “Depressed White Girl.”
  • Nick Boksa, “Inferno.”

Forensics is a Virginia High School League (VHSL) sanctioned activity. In fact, while the VHSL nowadays seems more synonymous with high school sports than the Forensic arts of speaking and language, the VHSL was established in 1913 by members of both the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union at the University of Virginia to serve as a debating league for the state’s high schools.

During the 1910s, it expanded to over 250 schools and added championships in oral reading, baseball, basketball, and track and renamed itself the Virginia High School Literary and Athletic League. After World War II, it adopted other sports and began standardizing officiating practices for high school sports.

WBHS Forensics students participated in the Regional Tournament at WBHS. Shown left to right are Olaedo Anyanwu, Urunna Anyanwu, Catherine Dullaghan, Andrea Gonzalex, Latriva Pierce, and Ellie Panko (virtual). All placed in the top three for their respective categories, moving them on to Super Regions in March. (photo submitted)


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