Radford High School’s forensics team is headed to the state tournament in Midlothian March 25 after winning the 1A West Regional Forensics Tournament earlier this month.

“Because our region is so talented and so competitive, this is really a big deal,” said Tina Tapp, the team’s coach.

The team will face new regional competition next year because it is moving from the 1A to the 2A division, so Tapp said it is especially exciting to end the year so successfully.

The team has performed well in previous years, taking third place in last year’s state tournament. But Tapp said it has never done this well at the regional tournament, where eight of the team’s 21 members qualified for the state tournament this year.

“We make it to the state tournament quite often, but never with this many students,” Tapp said.

She said that over the past three years, there has been a surge of interest in the team. This is beneficial because having more members increases the likelihood of a team being competitive in the sweepstakes category at tournaments.

However, the number of members makes it difficult to practice because each student needs to meet with Tapp individually, which can turn into quite the time commitment for her after school. But she said it is well worth the effort.

“I love seeing students gain the ability to perform and speak in front of their peers and judges,” Tapp said.

Students on the team must memorize 10-minute speeches or dramatic performances for tournaments. Some participants choose to write the speech or performance themselves, but many select from pre-existing bodies of work.

“It always makes me so proud how hard these students are willing to work,” Tapp said. “It takes hours upon hours of practice, not just with me, but on their own in-between time.”

Being on the team requires dedication, but in exchange, Tapp believes members gain invaluable skills such as public speaking, memorization, research experience and confidence.

“Employers and universities are impressed by people who have competed in forensics,” Tapp said.

But amidst all the hard work, there’s still room for some fun. Tapp said her favorite team moments are the pizza-fueled practice sessions where team members spend hours performing and constructively critiquing speeches and performances together.

In addition to their talent as speakers, Tapp said other schools have been impressed by her team’s friendliness and helpful nature at tournaments. She said those compliments make her “just as proud as advancing to the state tournament.”

Students competing in the state tournament are: Madailein Adams, Taliah Almeida, Melany Barocio, Ateka Gichana, Emily Jackson, Adri Newman, Tess Ritchie and Elliott Van Noy.

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