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“Soooo, what do you say you and I get out of here, (wink) and I put a baby in you?” senior Liam Murphy asks junior Karl Walter. “No strings attached.”
Karl pretends to set down a soup bowl.
“Do you have, any idea,” Karl says in a dainty voice, rising in volume while pointing a finger, “How long I’ve been waiting to have a baby like this!?”
Karl sticks his chest out, puts his hands on his hips and gives a flirty smile.
He holds his smile a second longer before he and Murphy make a “whoosh” sound.
“So, she got hit by a bus, huh?” Karl says, this time in a low, frat- boy voice. “Poor girl.”
“Well, the bus took quite a serious hit, too. Large girl, comfortably in the 200s,” Murphy says using big hand motions. The boys continue their performance, changing voices and body language to transform into new characters. It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday in Lansing, Kan., and the 4A high school is buzzing with Karl, Murphy and over 150 other students dressed business-casual. It’s only the first forensics tournament of the year, but the team is already drawing laughs and good scores out of the judges — soph- omores, juniors and seniors alike are taking top spots, qualifying teams and individuals for state, winning sweepstakes and gaining
momentum for the rest of the season. Debate and forensics coach Trey Witt, a former East forensicator himself, knows the importance of early season success, especially by team leaders.
“It’s perpetual — the kids motivate each other,” Mr. Witt said. “Once you get a little bit of success, the other kids see that and they want to see that [too].”
And the forensics team has first place role models; down the hall in Lansing, seniors Annie Sullivan and Nick Kraske prep for their impromptu duet acting event. They choose four slips of paper — two people, a place and a thing: William Shakespeare, Susan B. Anthony, a teacher’s house and “Ghostbusters.” With only 30 minutes to prep for a seven-minute skit, the duo takes first place — Sullivan is a raunchy teacher as well as a hoarder and makes her student, Kraske, clean up her house, which is haunted. In a high-pitched third grader voice, Kraske makes innocent references to “the pile of tampons in the corner,” and questions why there’s a man locked in a cage in the corner.
“That’s just my ex-husband,” Sullivan says, without missing a beat.
Kraske and Sullivan move through their piece with confidence and pace. The performance quality of their skit at the Lansing tournament was matched by other East forensicators: four people/teams placed first and three qualified for the state tournament. East won sweepstakes. The team is no stranger to success — just go into their room 413B, tucked away behind the library, and look at the trophy-covered cabinet tops. Nearly 50 state and local trophies from both the forensics and debate teams have accumulated over the past four or five years — so many, they use one as a bathroom pass.
“They’re almost all mine,” Murphy joked.
The first semester debate season brought home a first place trophy for four-speaker state and qualified two debaters for nationals this upcoming summer. The forensics season is just kicking off, but with the depth and personality of the team, East hopes to improve on their second place title at state last year and take the win this season.
“We definitely have a very large ego as a squad, which makes sense because East is a large ego of a school,” sophomore Ali Dastjerdi said.
According to Dastjerdi, one of the reasons for their success is their team cooperation. While other schools compete against each other, East is all about team success. In debate, they compiled evidence and research so everyone had the strongest possible case. In forensics, they remind each other that the important thing is the team’s success as a whole; when two duo teams were ranked first and second going into finals in the Lansing tournament and the teams started to joke about who would win, Karl reminded everyone that it didn’t matter, as long as the East teams took the top two spots.
During class, everyone stays busy — each forensicator participates in at least two events, and according to Murphy, there’s a direct correlation between time commitment and success. So the team practices.
After the team celebrates their win with donuts and reflects on the Lansing tournament, they get back at it.
Senior Jack Mitchell looks for a new book to “cut” or find quotes from to turn into a humorous interpretation — a 10 minute memorized performance of a published piece with no props.
Dastjerdi and Murphy discuss splitting up research on bills for their congressional debate. In the three hour event, where “members” have to ask “privilege to exit?” and get a “motion to acknowledge” before they can take a bathroom break, participants meet in “chambers” of 20. They give speeches and vote on bills that local schools submit, such as “A Bill to Regulate Prenatal Gene Therapy,” or what Dastjerdi gave a speech on in Lansing, “A Resolution to Withdraw from NATO.”
Sophomore Henry Walter does a peer evaluation — another key to the team’s success—on his brother, Karl, as he practices for poetry.
“Chinese pugs no have Weight Watchers!” Karl says in a sassy girl voice with an asian accent. He’s practicing for the upcoming tournament in oral interpretation of poetry, reading “The Dog Pound” by Jake Barton, and giving a voice to different dogs: an Irish Setter, a Black Lab, a Chihuahua and a Chinese Pug.
Mr. Witt repeats “Chinese pugs no have weight watchers!” exaggerating the accent and incorporating hand — paw — gestures.
They go back in forth, repeating the same line over and over until Karl becomes comfortable being a small dog.