Forensic Speech Team Qualifies Four for National Tournament

Fourteen Earn Spots to NY State Championship


Mr. Schleifer

(from l to r): Sophomore Issac Blackburn, senior Henry Driesen, sophomore Rebecca Jacobson, and junior Nick Lieggi will compete against the top orators in the country at the National Championship in Dallas.

AJ Rella, Junior, Web Manager

The PMHS Speech and Debate Team achieved great success during the 2019 season, which lasts from September through March. Following a strong season, fourteen PMHS orators qualified for the New York State Championship and four Pelham speakers qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament in Dallas.

On March 2, at the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) district qualifier held here at PMHS, a quartet of students qualified for the NSDA national competition in Dallas, Texas on June 16: sophomore Rebecca Jacobson earned second place in Programmed Oral Interpretation, senior Henry Driesen placed second in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking, and sophomore Isaac Blackburn and Lieggi placed first and second in Congressional Debate, respectively.

Earlier in the year, fourteen students qualified for fifteen slots to the New York State Championship to be held at Hofstra University on April 9-10. Sophomores Rebecca Jacobson, Georgia Connolly, Margot Phillips and Sofia Tahan qualified in Oral Interpretation of Prose and Poetry with Georgia Connolly earning a second qualification in the category of Programmed Oral Interpretation. Sophomores Emily Kalyvas, Caitlin Winston, and Sophia Leung will be representing the school in the category of Declamation. Junior Nick Lieggi, sophomores Isaac Blackburn,  Nadine Leesang, , and Eliza Bratone, and freshman Josh Handelman all qualified in Congressional Debate.  Sophomore Thomas Roche qualified for JV Extemporaneous Speaking and senior Jack Morrell qualified for Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking.

Mr. Beck is the founder and head coach of the speech and debate team, assisted by Mr. Schleifer. Beck is also the president of the New York Catholic Forensic League (NYCFL) , which consists of numerous high school speech teams throughout the state. As president, Beck is responsible for scheduling, organizing, and distributing awards to speakers. He also coordinates all judge training for adults.

“We started the speech team here at Pelham in 2005 with only had two members. We currently have over 30 active members!” Beck said..

Generally, speakers must place first through fourth in order to receive a half qualification for the New York State Championship. However, a student that places lower in an event with more speakers may also receive a half qualification. Students need two half qualifications to qualify for the state championship in April.

Preparation for speech tournaments takes place with Beck and Schleifer in the weeks prior.

“Most of our preparation takes place the week before, and we work individually with Mr. Beck and Mr. Schleifer,” Lieggi, a veteran member of the team, said. “We also work with our teammates to review and memorize the speeches we have for the weekend’s tournament.”