By Rose Beilman Special to the Tribune rose.[email protected]

Traveling 12 hours on the road to Louisville, Kentucky, two Pratt High students sophomore Addison Hopkins and junior Alyssa Green made their way to National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) national tournament, June 12-17. Hopkins competed in Humorous Interpretation and Green performed Program Oral Interpretation, both acting events. With a strong imitation of several Muppet characters in a play entitled, “Sesame: Life on the Street” by Andrew Messer, Hopkins even made it past six rounds of preliminary competition, past two rounds of octafinals, and into the two elimination rounds of quarter-finals, one of 30 students in the nation to progress that far.

His performance was one of 245 humorous solos to make it to the national competition, and both Hopkins and Green were in the top 4% of performers in their activity in the nation to qualify for the competition. Just getting to the tournament is an honor in itself since a student must qualify at a regional competition as one of the top two qualifiers.

Both Hopkins and Green experienced several situations in common.

“Sunday, June 12 after we arrived was pretty boring [sitting around while Ms. Beilman and Ms. McGraw, coaches, went to meetings and trainings all afternoon], but it was also such an eye-opening moment to see thousands of competitors arriving from all over the nation and even the world. Then Monday flipped around to be so intense,” said Green.

“With four rounds of preliminary competition, and knowing that everyone who makes it to nationals is very good at what they do, Monday’s rounds made me perform at my best, and even though I didn’t make it past the two preliminary rounds on Tuesday, it was exciting to know I was competing among the best in the country. Also, getting to watch performers at the highest national level was more impactful and inspiring than I could’ve imagined.”

Hopkins said, “I couldn’t believe I made it into octafinals, and then when I made it to quarter-finals, it was crazy. Alyssa and I had been waiting for hours to find out if I would go on, and then all of a sudden, we looked at the computer, and there was my code, letting me know that I would have two more rounds the next morning. This is one of the experiences that I will remember the rest of my life.”

Hopkins also used his trademark charm and his ability to make balloon animals to make new friendships and connections with students from around the globe. He said, “I met people from all over the place: New Jersey, Texas, California, Idaho, Florida, and even from Taipei across the globe. I loved that.”

Head Forensics Coach Rose Beilman said, “I am so proud of these two. Addison didn’t make it on to the semi-finals, but as a sophomore competing against seniors who have been here at nats for years, he gave it his all. Also, in his quarter-finals room, he competed against two of the six students who made it on to finals and the top six, so his competition was fierce.

“Alyssa was the best encourager the last two days for Addison, after preliminary rounds, and it’s been a joy to coach these kids. They dedicated themselves to the hard work and hours to make it to nationals 2022. They showed heart, love, and commitment to their performances, to building each other up, and I can’t wait to see what the future will hold for both of them.”

Assistant Coach Angela McGraw’s presence was needed, since for each entry into nationals, the team had to provide a day of judging. This meant that with two entries, McGraw judged two days, including for Duo Acting, Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation (though not rooms with Hopkins), and Program Oral Interpretation (POI). For those unfamiliar with POI, it’s a relatively new event which pulls together various types of literature based on a theme. For example, Green’s POI was based on the positives and negatives of dating, and it included a prose narrative, articles from news magazines, and text from a memoir.

McGraw said, “The level of competition at nationals was amazing. When I watched these rounds, they were all good, so I had to judge based on the tiniest things.” She had long hours full of four rounds of judging each day.

Beilman and McGraw both sponsored the trip, and Pratt High School was one of 55 Kansas schools represented at the tournament. Kansas is known for its strong forensics competition, and while California and Texas had the most schools per state at this tournament, Kansas stands out as a very competitive state.

For example, Alabama with almost 5 million people had 10 schools, and even New York with its 20 million in population had 17 schools in attendance, while Kansas with around 3 million in population had 55 schools represented. Four of the last eight policy debate teams in the NSDA tournament were from Kansas, and teams from the Sunflower State also “won the national Tournament of Champions, National Catholic Forensics League, and National Debate Coaches Association tournament,” said Coach Russ Tidwell from Garden City High School. In other words, forensics and debate as activities are a very big deal in Kansas.

In addition, the national tournament hosted 1081 schools with 6469 entries. That Hopkins made it to the top 30 in that number is a remarkable feat for a sophomore from Pratt, Kansas, and these two students are hopeful that they and other Greenbacks forensics team members will continue to pursue excellence.