By Sierra Maciorowski
“Add a layer of chaos,” said forensics coach Brandon Spars, “and that’s what you get at state.”
With the forensics season finally finished, and the banquet coming up on May 20th, the qualifications-necessary state tournament officially ended the year for five Sonoma Academy competitors.
Unfortunately, although a state tournament would generally be considered an event for top competitors, some rounds were a step down from SA’s usual level of competition, with people from our league, the Golden Gate Speech Association, standing out as the top speakers and debaters.
“The people we sent to state were really top notch,” Brandon said. “I never saw anyone better than any of our regular people.”
Which, at least, is good for Sonoma Academy, since it shows that SA competitors can handle the best of the best, and do so on a regular basis.
This year’s record five debaters at the tournament demonstrated yet again the upward trend of the forensics team over the past few years.
“I think it’s been a steady increase,” said Brandon. “In terms of speech, we were getting to more of the people who were there, and practice was structured more.”
Fortunately, although judging at state is chaotic, the improved records throughout the year continued on into the final tournament, making it to semi-finals in both events.
“Morgan and Logan made it through five rounds of eight,” he explained. “Rachel made it to semi-finals, and just missed getting to the final round.”
Even with such an impressive record to follow, next year will hopefully bring more of the same for the team.
“The debaters are so self-motivated,” said Brandon. “To have almost three teams qualified to state; that’s going to be a tough act to follow.”
But, thankfully, next year’s most likely debate coach James Rogers may share current coach Ivy Ziedrich’s debate beliefs. A fellow Santa Rosa Junior College debater, Ivy’s pick for next year has one year of college debate experience, and a high school career in parliamentary debate to back that up.
In terms of speech, Brandon hopes to see more oratorical pieces, which are original work, from the team.
“My strength as a coach is the oratory and expository,” he said. “I’d like to see more people that I can help a little more.”
Since everyone at Sonoma Academy is familiar with Brandon’s oratorical abilities, having more speakers in Brandon’s style could certainly spice up the campus.
With the end of the season, however, comes a strong dose of sadness. Forensics captains Morgan Apostle, Ben Kaplow, Sydney Weil, and Rachel Scherrer will all head off to college next fall, leaving a vacuum in their places, as speakers, debaters, and as friends. For speech, according to Brandon, not having Rachel and Sydney will be difficult.
“It certainly is going to change the chemistry, which can be refreshing,” said Brandon. “Everyone is going to be improving in their own way.”
In the end, those individual and partnership improvements will be a big part of what influences next year’s season.
But other factors, like team dynamics, are also essential for a good year.
“It’s good to have a team that can embrace different tones and behaviors, and still have something in common with the year before,” Brandon said. “Whatever happens, I’m going to embrace it, and find what is strong and good.”
For the future, it’s hard to know what will happen in the realm of forensics. After all, debate and speech have taken a much broader role for many students than a normal extracurricular, going all year, and into summer institutes. “I’d like there to be an office down in athletics that’s the forensics office; to have it be a real program, and not just an extracurricular,” said Brandon.
Creating an officially serious program will take a lot of support from parents, from the board, from the head and assistant head of school, and from the community. And while that does seem improbable at the moment, things are finally moving in that direction.
“If that’s going to happen, we really need to make it a priority,” Brandon said. “I think, if we keep doing this, and keep attracting students because of forensics, it will happen.”