By Bryson Jones | Mesquite High School, Junior
November 28, 2016
(Gilbert, Arizona) -- Built in 1927, the Town of Gilbert water tower is an iconic landmark in the community. Likewise, the speech and debate tournament bearing its name is becoming an important fixture on Arizona’s speech and debate circuit.
Four hundred students from 38 high schools visited Mesquite High School on November 18-19 for the inaugural Water Tower Invitational. Some traveled from cities like Bullhead City, Flagstaff, Tucson and Winslow to test and showcase their speaking, acting and debating skills. In total, the tournament had 496 entries in 19 events, including one unique to Water Tower Invitational – Radio Broadcasting.
The two days of intense competition began with two rounds of Congressional Debate. Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels administered the oath of office before competitors began debating student-written legislation. Mesquite junior Danielle Delgado took third place in one of the four Congress houses.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team worked behind the scenes to ensure everything was ready for the rest of the debate events, which began on Friday afternoon, as well as speech events that began on Saturday morning. In addition to preparing folders for judges, copying ballots and creating posters to notify competitors who would advance to semifinal and final rounds, team members were heavily involved in curating material for several events.
Senior Megan Codling developed the topics for Radio Broadcasting, in which competitors were given 30 minutes to create a five-minute radio broadcast that included two news stories, commercials and in some cases, weather or traffic reports. Just like The Voice, judges were instructed to sit with their backs to the competitors to get a true radio feel. The event enticed 19 students to give it a try, and feedback was so positive that it’s a safe bet it will be back next year.
Junior Bryson Jones devised some challenging topics for Impromptu Speaking, including foreign idioms, chemical elements, Rorschach graphics, and, for the final round, a box of Thanksgiving-themed objects. Junior Ben Hay and sophomore Joel Joseph compiled questions for all rounds of Extemporaneous Speaking, with Horizon High School’s Susan Seep also pitching in.
Several team members collected ballots from judges, while others ran the concession stand for the competitors, which included burgers, brats and hot dogs grilled by two team dads. Meanwhile, judges enjoyed a bounty of delicious food in a lounge staffed by parents and family members; many worked extra shifts to ensure participants had a great experience.
Their hard work – and that of Coach Tracy Weaver – paid off; the tournament raised money for the team to help cover the cost of traveling to the Harvard Invitational in February, and other national tournaments. Perhaps more importantly, it helped the team bond through pulling together to get things done.
Following the final rounds of competition – one of which was judged by Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board Member Julie Smith – the tournament concluded with an awards ceremony that included a keynote address from Gilbert Vice Mayor Jared Taylor, and this outstanding video created by freshman Jeffy Yu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAW0X494GeM&spfreload=1