The Contra Costa College speech and debate team participated in the annual Speech and Debate State Championship on March 14 to 18 held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Concord.
Although none of the nine CCC competitors advanced to the national championship in Chicago, they ranked in the top 40 to 25th percentile in the state.
The intense competition featured premier forensic squads from two-year colleges up and down California, including City College of San Francisco and Los Angeles City College.
Speech and debate team coach Rachel Dwiggins-Beeler said one thing that makes the State Championship unique is its single-division format. Everyone competes at one level unlike other competitions where there’s a novice level for beginners, a junior level for intermediate performers and an open level. Every competitor competed at the open level in the State Championship.
“Our team performed significantly well, even though pretty much all of our team is brand new this year,” Dwiggins-Beeler said. “We’re very proud of them because they were competing at that open level against folks who have been competing in prior years and to be ranking as high as they did in the state is not an easy thing to do.”
The CCC speech and debate team members were well aware of the high level of competition before stepping into the tournament.
“I knew going into the State Championship that it was more competitive than all other tournaments,” team member Anjelica Silva said. “So I practiced, practiced, practiced to make sure I was well-prepared.”
The limited resources provided for the team compounded the issues surrounding preparedness and inexperience on the team.
“We know we’re the underdogs when it comes to competitions due to the lack of resources, but we still manage to come out on top,” team member Michele Escalada said.
Dwiggins-Beeler said, “Our school has a very small budget relatively speaking compared to a majority of these schools at these competitions and how that transcribes in the overall performance is that these other schools with large budgets are going to competitions several times a month because they have the funding to pay for it. We do not.”
“The more competitions you go to the more experience you get and the stronger you get as a speaker,” she said.
The speech and debate team members have built a reputation for building a bond that extends far from regular teammates.
“When we’re going out to these competitions it’s like we are a family. We enjoy casually debating with each other and learning from each other,” Escalada said.