By Lorrie Ham
Westonka Speech competed March 8 at the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) National Qualifier Tournament, where sophomore Merrick Gormley became the first Mound Westonka High School student to advance to the semifinals.
There were a total of 20 schools competing for the Southern Minnesota District, with 393 competitors. Westonka Speech had 43 qualifying competitors for the tournament and sent 10 students to the competition.
Gormley competed in Program Oral Interpretation (POI) and advanced to the elimination rounds for the tournament. He has competed in three different categories throughout the season: Poetry, Program Oral Interpretation and Creative Expression. Due to only being allowed to compete in a single category at NSDA, Gormley had to decide which of these three to do at NSDA. He has earned top marks in all three categories, so the decision was tough, but ultimately he decided on POI.
Gormley’s advancement to semifinals at NSDA is a result of all the hard work he has put in this season. “We will be back next year with even more competitors and advance even further,” said coach Rhys Jones. “There is endless potential on our team.”
The nine other students who competed at NSDA competed in Humorous, Drama, Original Oratory and Informative Speaking. While none of them advanced to semifinals, all of them grew from competing against some of the most elite speakers in the state and are ready to take on tough competition at the upcoming subsections tournament.