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CLOVIS — The Lemoore High School speech and debate team is off to a good start after the first few tournaments of the year.

The Lemoore High School team was ranked No. 5 overall at their second speech tournament of the year hosted by Clovis High School.

Coach Matthew Martins said that the team is still a new team. He said that many of the top performing students graduated last year and now the team is still getting up to the same level.

Martins said that despite the fact that many team members are new to speech and debate, they did well in their first two tournaments prior to Saturday.

“This is more of building year for us,” Martins said. “We have a really good team this year; it’s just that many are new to this.”

Martins said that this year the team has more than 50 students total which was a 66 percent increase in the size of the team last year.

At the competition, Saturday, 38 of the students competed and 25 were on the varsity level.

Some of the new students attribute last year’s successes as the reason to join while others like Lauren Walton and Sophia Milleh, both sophomores, had similar reasons as the students who revived the team two years ago – to make new friends and better articulate arguments.

Sophia said that several of her family members competed in speech and debate and after her first year at Lemoore High, she decided to give it a shot.

“I thought it would be a good way to put myself out there,” Sophia said.

Lauren, who joined as a freshman, said that she wants to make a significant change in the world and sees speech and debate as a step forward toward her goal.

“You can only do that if you talk to people and they can understand you,” Lauren said.

Sophia and Lauren took turns during the break between their first and second rounds practicing their speeches to continue getting better on Saturday.

For three rounds, each student presented their original speeches in front of judges and peers, not knowing how well or badly they did.

On Saturday, Jessika Luna and Zekharyah Yroshlme, both juniors, practiced their speeches. Jessika and Zekharyah focused on their pronunciations of words and where they would stand and move in relation to the words that they would say.

Jessika’s speech was about the perils of safe spaces with an emphasis on how they can stifle free speech. Zekharyah’s speech was a dramatic interpretation of a Russian soldier who saw himself as a god of war during World War II.

Jessika said that she finds speech and debate to be a good place to expand her knowledge and help herself become a more independent thinker, all while building her confidence.

As the day continued Saturday, students discussed with each other how they thought they did. Then when it was close to 4:30 p.m., one of the teachers posted who was going on to the final round.

The students gathered around to see if they were one step closer to winning a trophy.

Leandra Vernon, a senior, was one of the varsity members who moved on to the next round.

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Leandra’s speech was about the need for sex education in schools. She was faced with tough competition with speeches discussing the importance of bees and infrastructure and speeches calling for an end to child marriages and the end of rape of female inmates.

After all the students who made it to finals presented their speeches, the students waited for awards to be given out.

All 10 of the varsity students who went on to the final round placed in their sections.

  • Liz Uitenham and Levi White placed sixth overall in Duo Interpretation.
  • Nicholas Leon received first overall in Original Prose and Poetry.
  • Josi Edmondson received fifth place in Original Prose and Poetry.
  • Isac Dauenhauer placed in Dramatic, seventh place overall; and Oratorical Interpretation, third place overall.
  • Maya Siguenza received sixth place in Humorous Interpretation.
  • Yvonne Rodrigues received sixth place in Oratorical Interpretation.
  • Josh Ray was fourth place overall in Original Oratory.
  • Leandra was fourth place overall in Original Advocacy.
  • Christian Ondras was second overall in National Extemporaneous.

Additionally, five Tigers made it to finals in the junior varsity division and are now varsity speakers: Mar’Zionne Thomas, Gage Teller-Brawley, Jessika Luna, Haily Knutson and Alejandro Medina.

“We ended up doing about how I thought we would with a young but talented squad in Division 1, but I’m proud of my young group and their progress,” Martins said.

This week the students switch gears and begin preparing for their debate tournament Saturday while also keeping in mind their invitational tournament at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Martins said that 18 students will compete in the invitational.

Martins said that if the team keeps up the momentum, it will be able to achieve the goals he has for the team: to attend two invitationals, qualify seven students for the state competition and be ranked in the top three schools in the Valley.

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