Speech competes online

The NPHS Speech and Debate team will continue their season online

Sophia Walsh, Editor in Chief

Technology and adaptability are keeping North Platte High’s Speech and Debate team at the podium. Last March, the team was one day away from the district competition when the pandemic forced schools to shut down. This year, the team is competing over Zoom. 

Speech and Debate sponsor David Cooper said health restrictions forced the decision. “There were not any other opportunities to host but online,” he said.

Sophomore Reyna Wiezorek practices her lines with Senior Maggie Cook after school. (Sophia Walsh)

Cooper said all of the schools wanted to keep the number of students in a building low, so the sponsors collectively agreed to compete online. In North Platte, students are placed in various rooms around NPHS, given a time for their event, and use their Chromebook to present their topic.

Senior Annie Von Kampen said the Zoom platform is an interesting adjustment.  “We’ll be in the school, we’ll be dressed up, we’ll be as a team, and we’ll warm-up together,” she said. “It [is] weird because we [aren’t] in an actual round with our competitors.” 

Senior Maddie Ochsner said she felt calm and more focused at last Saturday’s meet. We knew where everything was.  It was only us at the school,” she said. “There weren’t a whole bunch of other people there that we didn’t know.”

Von Kampen likes not having the judge in the room looking right at them.  “It’ll be easier to ignore without that sense of nervousness when they’re directly in the room,” she said.

Cooper said the team is comfortable with technology, so it’s an advantage.  He said their Chromebooks have good microphones and the students were already used to video practices.  

NPHS senior Maddie Ochsner practices her poetry lines. She wrote the poem herself about siblings. (Sophia Walsh)

Ochsner said the technology can help them, but it’s also unpredictable.  “I knew what I was doing [at the online meet], but I was unsure I was doing it right,” she said. 

With the restrictions in place, the team has also had to find a new way to practice for their competitions. The team practices each morning from 7-7:45 a.m., as well as, a couple of afternoons. Some of those practices have also slowly shifted to Zoom to accommodate students who need to practice from a distance. 

Von Kampen said they’re trying to mitigate the amount of people in school.  “Obviously, group events like OID [Oral Interpretation of Drama] and duet will have to do some practices in person, but at least right now, we’re trying to do some Zoom practices as well,” she said. 

Cooper and Ochsner  both agree that they are at least able to compete. “If it weren’t for the technology that we’re using, we wouldn’t be able to have a season.”