GBHS Forensics Students Continue Success in a Virtual World


Special to Panther Tales


The Great Bend High School Forensics Team started another season strong, rounding up some medals while communicating and competing in a virtual format.

“Our team has been busy preparing and adapting to the challenges of the new style.  While it has altered some of how we perform, it has not changed the students’ passion for speaking and sharing their voice,” said Kim Heath, head coach of the Great Bend squad.  Heath continued, “My assistant coaches, Dan Heath and Kelli Henderson, and I each have different strengths in the areas of technology, creativity and organization.  This is allowing us to meet the needs of our students no matter where they are in our new reality.”

This season the team will be using various software programs which simulate the nature of in-person competition and create a synchronous environment where competitors speak in real time at some of the tournaments.   At other competitions, the students will record their performances and submit them to be judged asynchronously.  The students utilize the webcams on their Chromebooks to speak and perform for the judges.   Often, they are able to watch their competitors from other schools performing in the round just as they would in person.  However, because of the limitations of the technology, students have lost the opportunity to perform in front of large audiences in finals.  This is disadvantageous for the younger students who can learn from seasoned, successful performers in finals.  

There are, however, some benefits for the students.  Training on communication over a virtual format will prove useful as remote communication will no doubt be with us for a while. “Not only are the speech students learning the virtual world for competition,” explained Coach Heath, “but students are also better equipped for college interviews that are occurring on virtual platforms.”   In addition, the forensic students are learning how to adapt and problem solve.  They continue to face new technology challenges and work together to solve them in order to compete virtually.   

During the opening weekend of the season, four students competed at a Student Congress tournament hosted by Hutchinson High School. Freshman, Ryan Armendariz led the team with a first place finish in the Novice House.  Sophomore Maddix Pokorski served as presiding officer and placed 4th in one of two Varsity Houses. Junior Isaiah Smith was 6th place in the other Varsity House.  

The following Friday found the squad at another Student Congress event–this time hosted by Moundridge High School.  Smith was 4th place in the Varsity House, and Sophomores Dathan Proffitt and Angel Palacio tied for 5th and 6th place in the Novice House.

This past Saturday, the Great Bend High School team competed at the Halstead Forensics Tournament.   Four of our ten entries took home hardware.  Isaiah Smith led the team by bringing home a 3rd place medal in Dramatic Interpretation.  The squad has many speakers on the team this year. At Halstead, Dinah Newman won 4th, Adeline Dougherty placed 5th and Malachi Wasson finished 6th in Original Oration.

No matter where the season takes us, our students are well on their way to being strong and empathetic communicators regardless of the format.