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Honors Blog | Bridging the Social Distance | Calvin Gilmer

The letters WYO displayed on an outdoor gate.

Headshot of Calvin Gilmer

Throughout my high school debate career, I never considered that there could be an event big enough to cancel the Wyoming Speech and Debate State Championship. The event seemed fixed, immutable, always waiting at the end of the season for the competitors who were ready to bring their all. Hundreds of competitors would duke it out over the course of three days to determine which school would leave with a state title. It seemed this year would be no exception, until the COVID-19 pandemic led to the tournament being abruptly cancelled on the morning of the first day of competition. This came as a shock to teams around the state; many of them had already embarked on the journey to Green River and were forced to turn around and return home emptyhanded.
 
The UW debate team was similarly affected by the pandemic. National tournaments that our squad had been building toward for months were also cancelled, forcing the seniors on our team to miss out on what could have been the most memorable tournament of their careers. As a team composed largely of former Wyoming high school debaters, we wanted to ensure that the seniors in high schools across the state didn’t suffer the same fate, especially because of a pandemic that they had no control over. That’s why we proposed holding State online this year. The UW team was already experienced in online debate, having hosted the only online collegiate policy tournament back in October. That tournament was a success, so we felt that we’d be able to reward the high school seniors of Wyoming using a similar method.
 
Coaches and competitors across the state agreed with us! From Evanston and Jackson to Gillette and Cheyenne, dozens of students logged onto Zoom to display some truly impressive debating talent. The successes of the debaters at this tournament would not have been possible without some very hard work put in by all parties. Coaches conducted virtual meetings with their students to practice skills that would come in handy. Judges from across the nation logged countless hours to judge Wyoming’s finest high schoolers. UW debaters acted as administrators to ensure the tournament ran smoothly and were there when technical difficulties arose. Ultimately, the biggest accolades go to those who competed. They displayed incredible grit by adjusting to a completely new format as well as putting in the work needed to succeed while quarantined in houses during the middle of a global pandemic. Everyone involved with this tournament should be recognized for having the restless, driven spirit that Wyoming is known for- but especially the competitors!

 

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