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NMI participates in virtual speech-debate competition

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DUE to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Speech and Debate Association competition was held virtually with the CNMI team advancing to the main event, NSDA regional coordinator and Marianas High School teacher Harold Easton said.

The competition, which was supposed to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shifted to an online platform on June 14 -20, 2020 with 5,316 students from 1,322  national and international schools participating.

The CNMI team members included Marianas High School students Esther Park and Kate Ishida, Anastasia Shamanaeva, Jonathan Wolf, Shea Hartig, Dane Hodges, Maria Elizabeth Bonto, Keghani Chaparian, and Amy Soliman; Victoria Santos and Jill Mallari of Mount Carmel School; and James Keaton and Nah Cristy Lee of Grace Christian Academy.

 Before joining the virtual speech-debate competition, the participating Marianas High School students practiced online with MHS coach Kristine Wolf. Contributed photo

During the opening ceremony, Shea Hartig was honored for competing in a qualifier event in the nationals every year as a high school student.

“Of the thousands of student participants only a small percentage of students achieve this honor,” Easton said.

Hartig, who is a member of the MHS Class of 2020, has been competing in the NSDA since she was in eigth grade.

“I’m honored to say that I have qualified for nationals every year since then,” she said. “My biggest honor has been representing the CNMI on the national stage as a four-time qualifier. Any opportunity to show the nation that the CNMI is a worthy, beautiful place and a force to be reckoned with is an opportunity that I am proud to take.”

She said she was “thrilled and humbled” to end her participation in the nationals as among the top 60 competitors and to be recognized “with the best of the best.”

“Although my speech career likely ends here, I could not have asked for a more fulfilling and inspiring five years. I am where I am today because of my family, coaches and teammates. No matter where life takes me, I will forever be, first and foremost a proud member of Team CNMI,” she added.

The main events are very challenging, Easton said. “No CNMI national team member has ever advanced  to a main event — until now.”

The first to do so were Kate Ishida and Esther Park in Duo Interpretation. They made it to the Top 60.

Other students who made it to Top 60 included Christy Lee in Prose Reading, Victoria Santos in Storytelling, Shea Hartig in Impromptu Speech, Dane Hodges in Storytelling, and Jonathan Wolf in Prose Reading.

MHS coach Kristine Wolf said the participants had to go to the NSDA portal to record and submit their event entries.

The event was run on Central Standard Time, which meant judging took place between 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., Saipan time, Easton added.

For Jonathan Wolf, the virtual competition was not as “nerve-wracking” as the in-person event.

“There’s really very little you can do — practice, record your video and pray.  You submit one video and that’s the video that gets judged all throughout.  Unlike with the in-person competition, you have the opportunity to make changes and improvements as your round comes,” he said.

Wolf said he missed the human interaction in the competition that included shaking hands with the judges and joking around with other competitors.

“Our presence was not required in the virtual competition room, but despite the time difference you had to visit the competition room between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., Saipan time, to see the videos of your fellow competitors and watch the judge’s reaction,” he said.

Competing at the national level can be very intimidating, Kate Ishida said. “But the fact that we made it this far  is a most rewarding thing.”

Ishida is proud of the CNMI team for making it to the Top 60.

James Keaton, for his part, prefers the in-person competition. “It is genuinely more engaging.”

But the virtual competition was well-organized, Nah Cristy Lee said. “It made me grow and learn more as an NSDA competitor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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