By Elise King

The Laramie High School Speech and Debate team has held its state tournament this past week online via Zoom, an online video communications app. The debate was originally supposed to take place in Green River, Wyoming.

“It’s so different. We’re so used to debating live in person. We’re fortunate we can do this through Zoom,” Patty Smith, the team’s coach, said. “It’s not bad, it’s exciting to still debate. The team and myself, we’re really grateful.”

The tournament started Wednesday, April 22 and went through to Saturday, April 25, each day at four in the evening. There was difficulty regarding internet and network connection, so a few of the debates ran just a bit late into the evenings.

The original plan for the Debate team was to go to Green River in Sweetwater county and debate the topic for this year, which is “The United States federal government should substantially reduce Direct Commercial Sales and/or Foreign Military Sales of arms from the United States”. Topics are provided to every high school by the National Speech and Debate Association that is located in West Des Moines, Iowa.

“Well, it took a while to get used to, but it’s run by the University, so they’ve done this before,” Audrey Yeung, a freshman competitor, said. “It’s efficient and well-organized.”

Students argue both sides of the topic. They are given their side to defend just a bit before they argue against the opposing side. This year, the students are emailed their topics before their Zoom debate.

“At a regular tournament, you wouldn’t know who or what school you are going up against, and school codes would be given the teams to begin the debate, and competitors did not know who they were going to be up against, or what side they would be defending until fifteen minutes to a half hour beforehand. It’s the same thing this year, only a little different through the Zooms,” Smith said.

The national tournament this year will be held online from June 14 to 19. It was originally going to be held in Albuquerque, N.M. on the same dates. There will still be a tournament in Albuquerque, but there will be strict regulations in place to go along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) pronouncement of social distancing and large crowds.

“To compete at the national tournament, a student has to qualify. That tournament is called Districts,” Smith said.

The district tournaments were held in Cheyenne, Wyo. in February from the 20 through to the 22.

“It is completely different from the state tournament. At the District tournament students are only guaranteed two competitive rounds. At the end of the tournament, the students qualify to attend the national tournament,” Smith said.

The students in the Speech and Debate team practiced their arguments all year long for the topics to prepare for State, District and National tournaments, if they were to qualify.