By Seth Coleman
The Grady High School speech and debate team flexed its formidable muscles at the George Mason University Patriot Games National Invitational last month with a Top 10 finish.
This weekend, Jan. 22-23, the Grady “Jesters” will be back in action on home turf, as they host a tournament that will feature more than 400 competitors representing 38 schools from six states (Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina), and includes four state championship teams. Due to the size of the competition, matches will be held at Grady and on the campus of Inman Middle School.
Whether they are competing locally or nationally, one thing is certain about the Grady High School speech and debate team: They are a formidable group.
At the George Mason Invitationa, Grady represented Atlanta Public Schools extremely well. With 37 states represented and 3,000 entries creating the largest invitational in the nation, the Jesters took 10th place overall!
“It was an amazing performance from an amazing team,” said Jester coach Mario Herrera. “The enormity of this accomplishment cannot be overstated. These students did a fantastic job.”
Top individual performances included:
Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Meredith Fossitt, Champion; Conor Downey, advanced to the Quarterfinals; Grace Bridges advanced to the Octofinalist Round
Prose Interpretation: Ashley Carter, Semifinalist; Molly Looman, Quarterfinalist
Poetry Interpretation: Ashley Carter, Quarterfinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Chloe Citron, Quarterfinalist
Extemporaneous Speaking: Keegan Hasson, Semifinalist; Gregory Fedorov, Quarterfinalist
Impromptu Speaking: Keegan Hasson, Semifinalist; Kassidy Kelley, Quarterfinalist; Sam Lombardo, Quarterfinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Molly Looman, Second Place
But big-time success is nothing new to the team, which was founded in 1985 by Language Arts instructor Lisa Willoughby. The Jesters produced the National Speech and Debate Association Student of the Year in 2011. They have won the Georgia Forensics Coaches Association state championship for six consecutive years. Currently, 12 of the top 20 rated speakers/debaters in the state are Grady Jesters.
Last month, the Jesters competed in the Fayette Classic at Fayette County High School and came home with the Overall Sweepstakes Award. Leading the charge were Ashley Carter, Program Oral Interpretation champion; Chloe Citron, Dramatic Interpretation champion; James Bryan and Anya Lomsadze, Novice Public Forum co-champions; and Harrison Wilco and Will Taft, Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debate co-champions.
Other top performances included:
Novice Public Forum: Anya Lomsadze, Second Place Speaker; James Bryan, Fifth Place Speaker
Varsity Public Forum Debate: Harper Gambill and Max Rafferty, Semi-finalists; Max Rafferty, Third Place Speaker
Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Meredith Fossitt, Semi-finalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Grace Dwyer, Finalist; Chloe Citron, Second Place
Extemporaneous Speaking: Keegan Hasson, Second Place; Gregory Fedorov, Third Place; Quinn Preston, Fifth Place; Sophie Rivard, Sixth Place
Impromptu Speaking: Denis Goldsman, Second Place; and Kassidy Kelley, Sixth Place.
In March, the team will defend its title at the state tournament, and then in June the Jesters will compete in the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament, which will be held in Salt Lake City.