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High school hosts first in-person all women's speech and debate meet

Victoria McGraw

Staff Writer

November 4, 2021

We’re all in it together. Even though they come from competing teams, everyone at the meet gathered for a picture to commemorate the day together.

The high school hosted the state's first in-person all-women’s speech and debate meet, organized by Sabrina Richard.

During the 2020-2021 school year, speech and debate tournaments were limited to being online-only events organized through Zoom and YouTube. Like with many other extracurriculars, these limitations came about due to the pandemic. It was under these circumstances that Westfield held its first Women's Words Matter speech and debate meet with moderate success. However, this year, meets are able to be held in person.

“Last year we had about 100 kids and 15 schools competing,” senior and meet organizer Richard said, “Considering that it was just girls who were allowed to compete, that was a pretty good turnout. I already have had almost 15 schools sign up to compete, and I’ve gotten to add new events like congress and debate.”

Many students feel Speech and Debate is an extracurricular mostly dominated by men, especially at the higher levels. For this reason, among others, the Women’s Words Matter meet holds a point of significance for Richard. The meet was open to women, non-binary people, and boy-girl duo pairs. They pitched the idea to speech and debate coaches Holly Reineking and Ralph Robinson in their junior year.

“There is not a recorded girl-only meet in the history of the NSDA (National Speech and Debate Association) anywhere in the US,” Richard said. “Honestly we had to convince everyone, sponsors, coaches, schools. We even had one school drop because it was a women’s only meet.”

As passionate as Richard is about creating this opportunity for young speakers, some challenges stood in her way along the process of creating the event.

“Well, speech meets just inherently have some difficulties that come along with them,” Richard said. “There is a lot of challenge with trying to orchestrate hundreds of kid’s submissions getting to their judges and then scores getting back to the students.”

The meet was held in the high school on October 30. Thankfully, all went according to plan, hundreds of students and judges bustled through the building to compete with speeches, skits, and arguments. Teachers' classrooms were transformed into stages, desks became podiums, and both girls and nonbinary people competed at this progressive event.

“It was amazing to see how I was able to reach and exceed my goal,” Richard said.

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