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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

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Aesthetic of a staff member
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Screamin’ Eagles bring passion, pride to Fall Varsity

Photo courtesy of Thao Le

   It’s seven in the morning on Dec. 9. Adrenaline electrifies the air at Montebello High School, where hundreds of students in the Southern California Debate League are gathered for the Fall Varsity tournament. At their gathering area, competitors from Gabrielino High School face the wall reciting their speeches, have their hair and makeup done by coaches, and put earbuds in to get “in the zone”.

   “I always like putting in my airpods to listen to ‘Lost In The Wild’, that’s like my hype song,” laughed senior Ashley Lau. “Everyone has those pre-tournament jitters […] it’s a lot of chaos, [but] in there I find a sense of normalcy, like this is what speech has always been like.”

   Students competed in three rounds for each of their events, or categories. If they scored high enough in those rounds, they could “break” to perform in the final round.

   In some events, students write their own speeches, while in others, the students choose a script that resonates with them. Different pieces aim to inform, advocate, or entertain.

   Freshman Oliver Li competes in Program Oral Interpretation (POI), where students piece together several stories that circle around one central theme.

   “My POI is about Asian eyes and discrimination, more specifically discrimination for Asian eyes and Asian appearances, because I feel like that’s something that’s affected me in the past,” Li said.

   Before the first round, leaders on the team gave a pep talk to their event’s members, handing them goodie bags with snacks and personalized messages inside.

   “There were a couple of people on the team that I was a little bit nervous for,” shared senior Kailey Trinh, who is a team captain and an event leader for Humorous Interpretation. “Not because they weren’t prepared, but because some of them were super nervous about competing with varsities when they’re a novice. So I was trying to make sure that they didn’t get into their heads, and [tell them] ‘you’re just as good as them, and you have as much potential as them.’ They actually ended up getting to finals, which I was really proud of.”

   In their rounds, Gabrielino students faced competitors from across the San Gabriel Valley, La Cañada Flintridge, Long Beach, and Crescenta Valley. They overcame nerves and doubt to focus on delivering their speeches with energy, emotion, and volume. 

   “Before I perform, I get really nervous,” stated junior Ximena Mercado. “But after performing, it’s such a relieving feeling, especially if I feel satisfied with my performance.  I wanted to break, obviously, but the main thing was that I wanted to feel proud of what I performed, which I did accomplish.”

      As the last tournament of the semester, Fall Varsity is what competitors work towards for months. Leading up to the tournament, Gabrielino students attend weekly practices and receive one-on-one help from coaches to refine their content and delivery.

   The hard work paid off, as 40 Gabrielino students made it to the final round, giving Gabrielino the highest number of points in the league.

   “The best part of my experience was seeing how excited everyone was for others,” Lau shared. “To see the excitement, the [gasp] whenever someone from Gab got first or second, or just any placing at all, […] the love we have is something that I really saw at this tournament.”

   For many, like Li, it was their first Fall Varsity. For others, like Trinh, it was their last.

   “It was sentimental at times, I almost cried,” shared Trinh. “It was after the third round, before finals came out, when I was really like, ‘Oh my god, it’s the last one.’”

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About the Contributor
Sophia Pu
Sophia Pu, Editor in Chief
Sophia Pu is the Editor in Chief for the school newspaper, marking her fourth year with the team. Outside of her editorial duties, Sophia is involved in Speech and Debate and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time in nature. Her commitment to the newspaper grew from a passion for interviewing a diverse range of individuals she might not have interacted with otherwise.
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