Monday, April 20, 2015

My Last Ever Speech & Debate Tournament – State

I honestly don't even know where to begin. State was a phenomenal experience that was definitely the highlight of my speech and debate career, or even the entirety of my high school years. I'm writing this on the bus right now (it has wifi and outlets, which is pretty cool). The bus ride here was nine hours, but this ride will be a bit shorter if we don't have too much LA traffic. The interpers are being raucous in the back of the bus, singing along to all their songs and occasionally yiping and yodeling; the originals and debaters are in the front, on their computers, watching tv, doing homework, and sleeping.

But last night, you could not have found a truer definition for "team." When AK won LD, and C and A won Parli, and M and N won Duo, and Leland won sweepstakes, the energy was euphoric. On the bus, everyone chanted the coaches' names, then the victors' names, and even the chaperone and bus driver's names, I was so proud to be part of a longstanding, honorable tradition with some of the most amazing people in the state. It was indescribable. Really, all I can say is "You had to be there."

It started early on Thursday morning, when we first embarked on the nine hour bus ride across 422.8 miles to Murrieta, near Temecula. Everyone was a bit sleepy but excited to go. We loaded up, and we were out, the interpers again being loud, the others trying to get some sleep, which wasn't possible with all of the singing in the back. Two rest stops and hours of sluggish traffic later, we were there.

The first round was on Friday, in the afternoon. Even though I had done well in a practice pod earlier that day, I was still terrified. I knew I should be confident, but somehow, with a combination of muscle fatigue from sitting in a bus for nine hours and nervousness, my knee just wouldn't stop twitching. It was also tremendously hot from the sun and the sheer number of spectators in the room. Some were even standing in the back because there simply weren't enough chairs. The second and third round were on Saturday. I thought I had done poorly my second round because the audience didn't really react to my speech, but that wasn't the actual case. Third round was also difficult, and one of my posters nearly fell off of the stand, but I made it through alright. I would redo it if I could, but suddenly I came to the realization that that was quite possibly my final speech of my entire speech and debate career.

On Sunday, we all went to the campus to support Alice in her semifinals round. It was a hard round, but I was surprised by some of the people who broke, some of which even our novices could probably beat in competition. It just goes to show how random success in speech and debate is. It could depend on anything, just the luck of the draw. Alice didn't break to finals, so I watched Aarthi's OI final round. I thought she was phenomenal and clearly deserved first place, but she ended up getting 6th, because everyone was a strong speaker, and it was up to judge preference. Awards was a whirlwind of cheers and sighs and hugs and cries; we all took pictures and then it was over, just like that.

Lastly was the dinner party at Mulligan Family Fun Center. The food wasn't that great, but we had free arcade games, go-karting, and laser tag (my team won). I also managed to figure out how to do well at the basketball coin drop game, so people kept giving me their extra tokens and I kept winning tickets. I didn't have a lot of time, but I managed to earn a good handful. The ticket counters were broken, so I handed them over to the counter person, who estimated about 500 points, so I got Steve the Squishy Spider (named after Captain America, who I mention in my speech, and the fact that he is a squishy spider stress ball). He'll be useful in college when I'm stressed a lot, and he's also a small souvenir of my time at State.

Food at the tournament was great. On the first night, we went to BJ's for the team dinner, where unlimited deep dish pizza, pasta, and salad were served. Chipotle and In-N-Out were abundant throughout the trip, though by the third day, I was really starting to crave some real, fresh food. Luckily, there was an Albertson's right across the street (I didn't eve know they still had those anymore) and I bought some salad, fruit, and juice for lunch. One of the funniest things that happened was that we were paying for our groceries when the cashier starting putting everything into a plastic bag. I started to say, "No bag," but couldn't even get the words out of my mouth because I was so shocked she didn't ask, "Would you like to pay 10¢ for a bag?" It didn't occur to me that eco-friendly regulations weren't in place everywhere, and that some places still had plastic bags just freely handed out. Anyhow, as much as I like Chipotle and In-N-Out, I think I've had enough of fast food to last me quite a while.

Even though I was a little disappointed that I didn't do better in competition, I still found out from prelim standings today that, according to the judges at this tournament, I am one of the top 24 exposers in the state, and I think that is phenomenal. However, it is also worth mentioning that expos was weird in the way they calculated prelim standings. A lot of deserving people didn't break, despite having better cumes than some that did. For example, a girl that went 1-3-7 broke, while a girl that went 1-4-4 didn't. I'm sure there's a method behind the madness, but I cannot work it out. I personally went 4-2-4, which I am proud of, because I had a pretty hard second round, where a lot of people didn't react to my speech, and I received a 1 from a judge in my first round as well, where my knee was twitching the whole time and the room was sweltering hot. This is where I've always dreamed of being, and though I had hoped to be one of the finalists, unfortunate circumstances during junior year and first semester senior year prevented me from doing expos and created a delay, so I'm glad I was able to get to where I am.

In the end, State was an incredible experience. I cannot thank Mrs. Brasher, my coaches, and my friends enough for mentoring me and being there every step of the way. Though it's likely the end of my formal speech career, the skills I've learned will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I honestly don't know where I'd be today without the people I've met and the experiences I've had. There is not a single thing I regret, and that is saying a lot. I am so proud of my friends for their achievements here, and I can't wait to see how and where life will take us on the ride into the future. ◊

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