Britt'ne Caldwell and Shayla Smith have been friends for a couple years, but when they were paired together last summer at a speech and debate camp, it was a veteran and a rookie.
Smith was going into her third season with Blue Springs High School's speech and debate team, and Caldwell was a newbie, but at summer camp the instructors gave them a duo interpretation piece.
Caldwell and Smith worked all season together, and a couple weeks after graduation they went to the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Dallas June 16-21 and finished fifth overall in duo interpretation.
Their effort highlighted a large area contingent of students who competed in Dallas.
Caldwell and Smith's piece, which they called “Blue,” came from a collection of short stories by American author Russell Banks, discussing the struggle at times of people with different values living in an urban area. Jaci Young, Blue Springs' longtime forensics coach, referred to it as a dramedy – serious undertones but with some humor injected.
Young said that sometimes they both would play multiple characters. In the end, Smith played three characters and Caldwell one.
“When we got the piece, we were confused,” Caldwell said. “It's a really big metaphor – not just a story about us, but about everybody, how it impacts everybody. We had no idea what we were doing, but a lot of people just encouraged us.”
“It was definitely kind of a struggle, being able to synchronize, but we didn't argue too much. We changed it a lot (during the season). When we got to nationals, we made a big change in characterization. We kind of made it our own thing.”
When they searched for good outfits to wear for competitions, Smith said it just so happened the pants suits they liked best were blue.
“They were really flashy, and we said, 'Are we gonna do it?'” she said. “They were like power suits.”
The duo took third at state. After several rounds of competition in Dallas and learning they had made the final 14, Caldwell said she nearly passed out.
“I wasn't nervous until then,” she said. “We were hugging all these other people, and then I hugged Shayla and almost passed out.”
“I definitely believed we were going to make it,” Smith said. “It was amazing.”
In addition to Caldwell and Smith, whom Young dubbed her “wonder twins,” Blue Springs' Aidan Henry finished 17th in humorous interpretation and competed in storytelling, and nine other students from Blue Springs also competed in Dallas.
“This was probably my largest group that I've taken (to nationals),” Young said. “We knew coming this was a strong, motivated group. They won a couple tournaments, and we knew they had a good opportunity to do good at nationals because they've been consistent all year and they worked hard.”
From Lee's Summit North, Devyn Holt advanced to the semifinals of the House portion of Congressional debate and Sean Sturdivant and Cydni Stanford advanced four rounds past the preliminaries in duo interpretation.
Several other students from the area qualified to compete at nationals. They included:
• Kaitlyn Williams and Trey Vermillion – duo interpretation.
• Francis Gatdula – humorous interpretation, storytelling.
• Ella Babcock – informative speaking, expository.
• Kaitlyn Johnson – original oratory, expository.
• Noah Hinton – programmed oral interpretation, prose reading, storytelling.
• Billy Mears – world school debate, extemporaneous debate.
• Chase Geisler – extemporaneous debate.
• Jackson Smith – extemporaneous debate.
• Williams – prose reading.
• Vermillion – poetry reading.
Blue Springs South
• Brendan Spicer and Drake Wood – public forum.
• Spicer – extemporaneous debate, impromptu.
• Wood – extemporaneous debate, impromptu.
• Hannah Lytle – big questions debate.
• Scott Overfield – dramatic interpretation.
• John Crump – international extemporaneous, extemporaneous debate.
• Hadley Brillhart and Gabbie Petentler – duo interpretation.
• Brillhart – storytelling.
• Petentler – storytelling.
• Brian Berner – extemporaneous debate.
• Tyler Zeller – international extemporaneous, expository.
Lee's Summit North
• Katherine Ewing – original oratory, expository.
• Cydni Stanford – storytelling.
• Trenton Fink – extemporaneous debate.
Truman's Brillhart and Petentler also competed in duo interpretation at the National Catholic Forensic League nationals, May 24-26 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Blue Springs South sent a contingent of students to compete at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions, May 10-12 in Omaha, Nebraska.
That group included:
• Jose Puente – dramatic interpretation, programmed oral interpretation.
• Hatty Monroe – dramatic interpretation.
• Osama Daoud and Xander McCourt – duet acting.
• Greyson Schaefer and McCourt – duo interpretation.
• Alisyn Tharp and Katy McVay – duo interpretation.
• Emery Downs and Ben Henderson – duo interpretation.
• Hanna Stracener – humorous interpretation, programmed oral interpretation.
• McCourt – humorous interpretation.
• Schaefer – informative speaking.
• Gage Shrader – programmed oral interpretation.
• Savannah Justice – programmed oral interpretation.