Minds In Motion

Forensics Team Quest for Success at State Qualifiers.
Sophomore Hayleigh Bruno smiling after giving a student congress speech
Sophomore Hayleigh Bruno smiling after giving a student congress speech
Karlee Clark

     The spotlight turns to the forensics team, better known as the speech and debate team. With the state qualifiers for debate just over a month away and speech qualifiers two, the pressure is on for aspiring state qualifiers of Greater Latrobe High School. 

Last year’s team of six Latrobe students,  class of 2023 Riley Baughman, current senior Brooks Conway,  sophomores Alana Brown, Hayleigh Bruno, Rylei Mears, and Karlee Clark went to Bloomsburg University to compete at states in March 2023.

 A successful state competition last year, Riley Baughman medalled in the poetry category, has added zeal and anticipation to the state competition this year.

“Qualifying [for states] was challenging and scary but it really got me out there and it is motivating me this year. It’s giving me something to look forward to…. I’d really like to qualify again this year. Because qualifying as a freshman who has never spoken before was definitely intense but I wouldn’t say the pressures on,” said Hayleigh Bruno. Bruno plans to compete in either Senate or Student Congress this year. 

“Student congress is basically a mock congress trial you’re acting as the Senate or the House of Representatives. You discuss bills which could cover political topics,” said Bruno.  

Starting a new year as a team opened a new realm of opportunities. With graduating a huge role model like Baughman, all knew the team dynamic would be different. Baughman qualified for states all throughout her high school career metaling twice, junior and senior year. Incoming freshmen were welcomed with open arms, excited to share their love of speaking with others. This year a handful of really talented freshmen joined the team and quickly found out what they love about forensics.

“I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into so it was a new experience… I think having older role models is a great way to ease my way through being a little nervous. It is intimidating approaching state qualifiers,”  said freshman Giavana Petrazio, hoping to go to states this year with the team. 

 Last year four students competed as freshmen, which could be intimidating.

“The state competition as a freshman was fun, but it’s also a learning experience for people, especially for me. I really did increase my public speaking skills.” said Bruno. 

Because so many students from Greater Latrobe competed this year sophomores are confident that with the knowledge and experience gained that for this season, with enough practice, they will be coming back as even stronger competitors.  

In any competition, the dynamic of the team plays a huge part in how you perform. The forensics team is unique in that way. Within the broad category of forensics, there are many different events you could compete in.  Students can choose from competing in, Student Congress, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, Extemporaneous Debate, Original Debate, Prose, Poetry, Duo, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Programmed Oral Interp, Impromptu Speaking, News broadcasting, and Commentary. 

“I choose to compete in pros because I think my piece is kind of funny. When I saw it I thought to myself ‘This is something that all girls can relate to because it is All Girls Must Be Everything by Tina Fey,” said Petrazio when discussing her passion for pros and the reasoning behind her competition piece.  

Petrazio is planning to compete in the prose category. This event is part of the speech half of speech and debate and is more theatrical. In this event, students choose a story and interpret and perform that story. Performances in this category are oftentimes funny and lighthearted but some can center around heavy and serious topics. 

 As a team, each member is doing their own event with their own unique pieces. “We are unique because we are a team but we are each doing our own events. As a team we have a sense of community but individuality. We’re all practicing together and we’re all supporting each other,” said Bruno. 

Some collaborate with  role models and do everything  to learn for the best, but everyone does things differently. In order to work on speaking skills and form arguments for debates the team meets for practice every Monday from after school until 5:00 PM. 

“I spend hours on my research. I like researching all of the [congress] bills and what-not and choose what to speak on according to those bills. I will pay close attention to how [other] people react and give their speeches. I will take their ideas and I will use that knowledge to better myself and base the structure of my speeches off of them,” said Hayleigh Bruno

“Every event we go to that I perform in, I do my piece a little differently each time to see the different feedback [from peers and judges],” said Petrazio. 

Although a large part of forensics is individual practice, the team is very lucky to have Dr. Bompiani-Smith (Dr. Bomp) as the coach to help. Dr. Bomp takes time out of her day to practice with individuals and as a team to help us put together our pieces and research student congress bills. 

“During practices we usually go through the bills and break them down and together we research to decide whether or not we agree or disagree with the bills,” said Bruno. 

With state qualifiers coming up fast, the Greater Latrobe High School Forensics Team is doing everything we can to prepare. Learning from past experiences the team  is doing all they can to get ready for the state competition.   

However, looking beyond the competitive nature of forensics, every speech shared and friends  made along the way of their  high school speech and debate journey is just another lifelong memory to hold on to forever.  

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