The Austintown Fitch speech and debate team is off to a strong start for the 2013-14 season. The 62-member team has taken two first-place team finishes and missed a third by just one point. The team is well on its way to repeat honors on a national level.
At the end of October, speech team coach Andrea Folsom was notified the Fitch High School's speech and debate team had earned a top recognition by the National Forensic League. The students on the team had achieved more than 200 degrees last year, ranking it among the top five percent of schools nationwide, and also earned team membership into the league's prestigious 200 Club.
According to Folsom, speech team members earn points and degrees based on competitive and service-related activities.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Fitch seniors Mia Colon and Christian Roberts get a little duo practice in on Friday, Nov. 15 to showcase their talents. Last year, Colon was a state qualifier in duo interpretation and placed 66th in nationals. Roberts competes in oratorical interpretation and was a state qualifier last year, placing sixth in the state. At Saturday’s tournament, she took first place in her category among the more than 1,000 speech team competitors from 20 schools that attended the event at Fitch.
"Students can earn a degree of merit with 25 points and continue to a degree of premier distinction with 1,500 or more points," she said.
Hitting the 200 point mark is also a reflection on Folsom and the other coach-advisors who helped build the Fitch team into a speech and debate powerhouse.
J. Scott Wunn, executive director of the National Forensic League said, "This milestone (200 Club) is remarkable because it demonstrates outstanding commitment to teaching students essential life skills including communication, research, listening, writing, and organization."
When the students get points towards the 200 Club as a team and points earned individually, the coach gets one-tenth of a point for every student point. Coaches, like teams, are also recognized nationally when they stand out above the rest. Folsom was notified on Monday that she had made that grade.
"I was just informed that I have received the Donus Roberts Quad Ruby coach award from the National Forensic League," Folsom said. "This recognition indicates that I have achieved the coaching milestone of 1,000 points during my coaching career."
Folsom's career has been a good one so far, but it is far from over. The speech and debate season for 2013-14 just got under way a few weeks ago and the team is already on a roll to stay in the nation's top five percent. The team only lost two state qualifier seniors from last year, and this year it started the season with a strong senior class, many who were state qualifiers from last season.
The team opened its season at the beginning of November at the Columbiana Tournament. Fitch placed first and brought home 21 trophies. The second tournament last weekend saw the team miss first place by one point, but still manage to bring home 11 trophies in the various venues.
On Saturday, Fitch played host to its home tournament that saw 20 schools sending more than 1,000 participants. While the team placed second in the team sweepstakes, the Fitch kids placed first in the overall power sweepstakes and won the Ken Carano Team Power Sweepstakes award.
Individual placers for Fitch included Jessica Harker, taking fifth in U.S. extemporaneous, the team of Logan Pasqual and Jarrett Kerpsack placing second in duo interpretation, Emily Kollar taking third in humor, Kayla Sabo placing first and Cassie Wirtz placing fourth in impromptu, Christian Roberts placing first and Albert Jordan placing third in oratorical interpretation, and Rachael Wyant placing fifth and Nicole Sherb placing sixth in prose poetry.
With more trophies for the display case and a strong start for the season, the team members are continuing to perfect their skills. Folsom said there are eight coaches that work with the team every day after school. The requirement is for a minimum of two days a week, but many exceed that.
"They are dedicated and often practice on their own," Folsom said.
The team will have a tournament every weekend through February. The state tournament is the first week in March and the Fitch speech and debate team will likely have good representation again this year.
"Last year, Logan Pasquel and myself were first at state [in duo interpretation] and 28th at the nationals," said junior Jarrett Kerpsack. "If we can qualify, we look forward to going back this season and at least making the final round."