The GCC Speech and Debate Team has been on a winning streak since last semester, continually bagging awards at tournaments all over California and nearby states like Arizona.
Early next month, two members of the group, under the guidance and tutelage of speech professors Jean Perry and Ira Heffler, will be flying to Florida to compete against forensics teams from all over the country in the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET).
“We’ve been traveling a lot these last couple of months,” said David Hale, one of the two members of the team who will be going to Florida. “We’ve had competitions every weekend, and these are qualifiers.” “Qualifiers,” Hale explained, are competitions in which forensics teams and their individual members can earn points to make it to the national tournament.
The competition, according to Language Arts Division Chair and team co-adviser Jean Perry, is more for four-year universities than for community colleges. “We didn’t think we would make it,” she said. “But in November last year we just started qualifying [through different events].”
Hale explained that in order to qualify for the national competition, which will take place at the University of Florida, a forensics team and its individual speakers need to compete in several tournaments to come up with a cumulative number of points. A team should have “a total accumulation of no more than eight place points” to qualify. For instance, if a team makes it to the final round of debate three times, impromptu speech finals three times and informative speech finals twice, then they qualify for nationals.
Robert Cannon, the second member of the team, was elected as the district representative by speech and debate teams from other Southern California community colleges at a tournament in Chico early March this year.
“I’ll head and close up district meetings,” said Cannon when asked about his responsibilities. “I’m also basically giving students a voice [in front of the American Forensics Association].”
Cannon said that he might eventually run for national representative. He mentioned that one of the Association’s past national representatives, Tony Mata, was also from GCC.
Cannon and Hale attended the national level’s warm-up tournament in Florida January, this year. “We shut out a lot of four-year schools and took first place in duo,” Cannon said. “We were the top community college there.”
Hale added that they were the only California school to receive an award in the warm-up tournament.
Cannon and Hale’s dramatic duo piece, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, could be the team’s “strongest event” in the Florida tournament, Hale said. Aside from their duo, Cannon will be in four other events and Hale in two.
Perry added that the “biggest hurdle” at the national tournament is making it to the quarter finals. “They’re boiling the teams down from over a hundred to just 24,” she said. But the team’s adviser also said that she is quite confident about her team’s ability to excel. She also said that she was grateful for the financial support President John Davitt has given the team.
Cannon attributes the team’s success to the guidance of their advisers. “We’ve received so much attention from the faculty,” he said. “They have really been supportive of us. There’s also the dedication put in by the whole team. Because of that, we are now on the caliber of a four-year school.”