Team uniforms will be suits and ties and the atmosphere will be competitive for the Steamboat Springs High School speech team and competitors from 14 other schools during a National Forensics League Student Qualifying Congress tournament beginning today.
For the second consecutive year, the high school is hosting the prestigious qualifying tournament, which will send five students to the national tournament in Salt Lake City this June.
Congress is one of the more unusual forensics events, with competitors grouped into "Senates" and "Houses of Representatives" to debate legislation written by students that deals with real-world issues. As with the federal and state governments, there is lobbying for top Senate and House positions, and successful lobbying often results in having your teams' legislation placed at or near the top of the discussion docket.
"It's kind of like watching actual Congress," Steamboat speech co-coach Marty Lamansky said. "It's interesting to see how kids get into each of the pieces of legislation."
Success for one team member usually indicates success for the team, Lamansky said.
"This is the one speech event that's truly a team event," he said. "If your team cooperates and does well, a couple members of your team will do well."
That certainly was the case last year, when Steamboat sent two team members to the national finals in Georgia. With those members not on the team this year, the experience of Amanda Toy and Joey Andrew might be essential to the Sailors' success.
Nearly 100 competitors will compete in the opening session at 3 p.m. today. The group of 95 students from 15 schools will be split into three Houses and two Senates. Two officials will observe each chamber for the entire session, after which they will each nominate three outstanding speakers. Each House and Senate will vote to send three of their peers to Saturday's final round, which will feature one House and one Senate.
"They get really intense," Lamansky said of the competitors. "We've got 95 kids who know only five will go to nationals."
The tournament continues all day Saturday.
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