Save the date: State Speech and Debate Tournament is a go

JACKSON, Wyo. — A slew of cancellations and postponement of events attributable to slowing the spread of disease will not include the upcoming speech and debate state tournament.

State president Londe Gagnon of the Wyoming High School Forensics Association says details are yet to be worked out but the state tourney will be held April 22-25 in an online environment. Photo: Courtesy WHSFA

Governing bodies WHSAA and WHSFA announced plans to move ahead with an online State Speech & Debate Tournament scheduled for April 22-25. The tournament will go online for the first time ever.

Details and logistics will need some ironing out, but the event better lends itself to a virtual experience than, say, a basketball game. Speech competitors typically do their thing before a panel of judges. Debaters also, present their cases before judges while their format requires an opposing team can also listen in. All this should be achievable in a video-conferencing environment.

The possibility became a reality with the aid of Director of Debate at University of Wyoming Matt Liu and his groundwork research already done pre-COVID. Liu has been looking into protocol for putting debate tournaments online and what that might look like. Liu stepped in and stepped up when it looked like Wyoming’s high school tournament would have to be cancelled.

“We’re getting close, just figuring out some final details like how duet would be worked out,” State president Londe Gagnon of the Wyoming High School Forensics Association, who is also JHHS Speech and Debate Team co-coach with Peggy Gagnon. “This will also be a good precursor, trial run for nationals, which just made the decision to go online as well.”

The schedule of the tournament will be designed so as to not interfere with school days. Formal invites and announcements are expected in the coming days.

“One of the things clear from the beginning is the idea that we do what’s best for the kids. And, in the end, we would rather give them something rather than nothing,” Gagnon shared. “It’s not an ideal situation. Going online presents a whole new set of challenges. But we are committed to fumble along and figure it out, because I think it is important to have something to be focused on during this dark time. Even for myself, I’ve noticed how planning and focusing on this event has helped take my mind off any anxiety.”

Statewide, coaches will be working in committees to finalize the rules, regulations, and event details in this new format.

By the way, congrats to these coaches of the season!

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