28 state qualifiers and counting for CHS Speech and Debate


Stressful. Taxing. Exhausting.

Those are the words Sophia Campos, a senior on the Speech and Debate team, used to describe the state qualifying tournament that took place on February 4 at Canfield High School.

This chaotic day can bring heartbreak or feelings of triumph for each competitor. Most categories only take up to around five people, making it extremely difficult to qualify. Those who qualified for Canfield will represent the team at the State Tournament next month.

Despite over 300 students competing at the state qualifying tournament, not many people know what it means to qualify to state in Speech and Debate, or even what someone on the Speech and Debate team does.

Campos competes in Informative Speaking, one of the 12 diverse categories in Speech, where she writes a ten minute speech informing her audience about a specific topic. She also has the option to use a visual aid or prop to make her point.

She spent the days leading up to February 4 perfecting the speech she began writing in September, getting it to its best before the big day.

The students were at the school from 7:00 a.m to 6:30 p.m. Those in Speech categories competed in three rounds over six time slots, meaning the categories were divided into two groups. While the first half, Group A, competed, Group B was able to rest. Once Group A finished, Group B would go to round and this cycle continued until every category had finished their third round. Each speech is ten minutes, so round rounds of five or six people last around an hour.

The two different forms of debate, Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas, alternated among themselves, competing in four rounds over eight time slots. Debate rounds also typically last an hour.

Jessica Lee, a senior in Lincoln-Douglas, qualified Saturday and described her category: “We debate on social and philosophical issues in society and focus on questioning ideas of morality, democracy, justice, etc, and determining whether or not certain actions are moral or immoral.”

Lee has competed at the state qualifying tournament three times and has qualified twice.

Dominic DeRamo, a senior in United States Extemporaneous Speaking, has dealt with the stress of the State tournament for four years now.

“It is so incredibly stressful to know that it’s hard to qualify in a category that relies mostly on your experience, your knowledge and your practice skills,” said DeRamo.

His category is more unconventional than most.

DeRamo said, “In Extemp, we blindly draw three questions out of an envelop, mostly about government and politics, and choose one to answer. We then get 30 minutes to write and memorize a 7 minute speech that answers the question, while bringing in multiple sources.”

Not all categories revolve around politics, though. There are also the “Interp” categories, such as Program Oral Interpretation, or POI for short. In this event, the competitor puts prose and poetry together to tell a ten minute story. This unique category appealed to sophomore Delaney Pallo when she joined the team this season.

Pallo competed Saturday and qualified as a novice, a feat that is hard to accomplish.

She said, “I’m super grateful for all of the support my coach and teammates and friends have offered this season, and it’s really freaky to think that six months ago, I didn’t know what POI was.”

Throughout all the tears and the stress, these students have supported and been supported by the Speech and Debate community. They are four of the twenty-seven students who will compete in Jackson, Ohio on March 2nd and 3rd for the State Tournament.  

Campos said, “The team has helped me grow, they’ve always helped me feel super included, and you never feel alone.”

The Speech and Debate team remains a hardworking, supportive family that works through the stress of each tournament, and will continue to do so for the State tournament in March.