Becoming a high school forensics state champion is an amazing accomplishment. Achieving that feat for 15 consecutive years is almost unheard of. By defeating second-place Grafton 32-15 in the Class 4 State Championships on March 27, Salem High School secured that attainment.
Senior Captain Sophia Gibson says she can’t put into words just how much fun she had this year. “Winning a state championship felt both relieving and exciting. Winning in my category was something I have worked so hard for these past four years. It feels surreal that I finally have a state title to my name,” Gibson said.
She added, “This season was something that was extremely new and nerve-wracking because we were all doing brand new things. I am so grateful that everyone on the team put forth their best effort in making this season go as well as it did. I will never forget the amazing memories I made with these incredibly talented teammates. Words cannot describe how grateful and honored I am to be a part of this history-making team.”
Mark Ingerson has directed the school’s speech and debate program for almost two decades and in that time, he has coached 84 individual state champions.
This year’s winners were: Senior Captain Sophia Gibson, Humorous Interpretation; Senior Captain Emily Snow, Serious Dramatic Interpretation; Seniors Annika Bryant and Riley Evans, Serious Duo; Juniors Nash Lakin and Graham Roudebush, Humorous Duo; Sophomore Taylor Berenbaum, Prose; Junior Julia Vaughan, Storytelling runner-up; Junior Kelsey Ryan, Prose third-place; Sophomore Zella Poarch, Humorous Interpretation third-place; Sophomore Courtney Bowen, Poetry third-place; Sophomore Rylan Long, Original Oratory third-place; Senior Zoe Lampros, Impromptu Speaking fourth-place; Senior Nathan Snow, Extemporaneous Speaking fourth-place; Eighth-grader Connor Smythers, Storytelling fourth-place; and Sophomore Inessa Everett, Poetry fifth-place.
Ever since her freshman year, it’s been a goal of Emily Snow to become an individual state champion. Achieving it, as she described, “felt absolutely incredible.” She added, “I’m so grateful for all the help and support I have received over the years with Forensics. I truly couldn’t have done it without the amazing people who motivated me to be the best that I can be and who inspired me to have perseverance and to work hard.”
The only other area school that can match the success of Salem High is the Blacksburg Forensics Team who won 15 consecutive team titles from 1989 through 2003.
“This was my 19th year coaching Forensics, and I’ve never had a team overcome so many obstacles in their path to success. Having to practice in masks while socially distanced, to competing virtually via pre-recorded videos or live on Zoom-like apps, this team has continued to remain focused and committed to each other and excellence,” Coach Ingerson said. “I’m extremely proud that this team is the group to tie Blacksburg’s record. They deserve the accolades and pride that comes with such an achievement.”