By Randy Arrington
LURAY — If you walk down the halls of Luray High School sometimes and see someone talking to the walls — pay it no mind, and please don’t interrupt practice.
It’s just members of the LHS forensics team prepping for the next competition. And oh, by the way — they are regional champions. For the second year in a row.
For a program only in its third year of rebirth, it marks quite an achievement. Coach Gwen Burley also won Region 2B Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.
Luray High School hosted its first regional forensics tournament among seven teams on Feb. 29 and earned six first place finishes, including:
- Junol Smith, junior — Extemporaneous Speaking
- Morgan Strassner, senior (team captain) — Original Oratory
- Kaya Huffman, junior — Prose Reading
- Aiden Brown, junior — Humorous Interpretation
- Becca Switzer, sophomore — Dramatic Interpretation
- Olivia Carrico, sophomore — Storytelling
In addition, LHS junior Aiden Brown was selected as the Performer of the Year at the Region 2B forensics tournament.
Some of the students involved in the highly successful team got rid of their stage fright at the local Trackside Theater.
“I’ve been doing theater since I was young,” LHS forensics team captain Morgan Strassner said. “I learn so much doing this.
“I’m involved in many clubs and organizations, but forensics has taught me the most,” the LHS sophomore continued. “It has shown me how to be a professional young woman in many ways. It has shown me how to dress, how to present myself, give a handshake, win/lose with grace and how to talk to adults.”
By the end of last season — its second since reforming the program — the Bulldogs were team champions in the Shenandoah District and at the Super Region 2A-B tournament. They finished fourth in the state.
This year, they were the Small School runner-up at the Shenandoah Valley Forensic League tournament, as well as winning the speech sweepstakes at the Catholic Forensic League tournament. In total, the team scheduled 10 tournaments, and they have performed well at each one.
“I wanted to open that door to a new opportunity outside sports because I know we are limited here… open them up to new things.” Burley said of restarting the program.
“I have a lot of experience with FFA, but you only speak about agriculture,” LHS junior Madison Rooks said. “But with Impromptu, you can talk about anything.”
The category of Impromptu gives a participant a small amount of time to come up with a monologue about a random topic given to them at the competition, not long before the round begins.
“You have to be able to talk to people,” Rooks said. “Whether it’s for a job or something else in the future…[forensics is] something everyone should experience.”
After starting with six students in 2018, the LHS forensics team finds itself hoping to qualify for the state tournament a third consecutive year. Three Bulldogs qualified for state first year (half the team) — eight went to the state tournament last year. How many will go in 2020? We’ll see when the Bulldogs travel to Williamsburg this Saturday to Bruton High School to compete in the Super Regional.
And as the team’s captain says: “It’s up to you, how well you want to do.”