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The Road to National Qualifiers

Speech and Debate students open up about the preparation and nerves that occur before the upcoming National Qualifier competition.
Trisha Niceswanger
IHSSA State Debate last January.

It’s that time of year when AHS Speech and Debate heads to National Qualifiers, or “nat quals” as the team likes to call them. There are many events in which students from AHS are trying to compete for a spot at nationals. The competition will be held this weekend in Des Moines. However, with all the excitement comes the preparation and hard work to make their goals happen.

Sophomore Margaret McCurdy is competing in two interpretation pieces, Dramatic and Program Oral Interpretation. Last year, McCurdy qualified in two of the eight events that AHS brought to the competition and hopes to have another amazing outcome this year too. “I’m super excited and really nervous that it’s already happening this week. But, I feel prepared.” Lots of time and practice goes into making these pieces “nat quals” ready, and McCurdy said, “We have hour-long practices all week, but we’ve been preparing all year.” She is very excited for her team and to see what they can bring to the competition this year. “I have high hopes, and I’m really happy with the amount of people who went out this year. My goal is to qualify for nationals for the second year in a row.” 

I’m super excited and really nervous that it’s already happening this week. But, I feel prepared.

— Margaret McCurdy

Nick Bennett, a senior and four-time national qualifier competitor, feels very prepared for this weekend. “I’m really excited, I think we’ll have a lot of people qualify, including myself.” Bennett is competing in Humorous Interpretation and Duo Interpretation and has been preparing as much as possible. “As of right now, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the school preparing and practicing with the coaches, and just doing some last-minute tunings to my pieces.” With the last four years of experience, Bennett said he is feeling “much more prepared this year,” due to his first two years being online, and a completely different experience. “I feel so much more prepared now that I’ve already been there. Last year it was all last minute for me, as well as it was the first year that I got to experience qualifiers in person, but now I know what to watch out for, what to prepare for, and what to do differently so it’s more appealing and competitive from what other schools are bringing.” Bennett is feeling ready, and most excited to end his senior speech and debate season with his team, and his friends from other schools. “I can’t wait to see everyone. We’re all going to wrap up our seasons one last time together.” 

“I can’t wait to see everyone. We’re all going to wrap up our seasons one last time together.”

— Nick Bennett

Junior Nissa Molgaard is feeling “nervous, but I’ve been prepping my categories all year.” Molgaard has high hopes for “nat quals,” and has put in heavy amounts of effort and time to make her pieces the best they can be, and prepare herself for the competition to come. “I’ve put in over 112 hours into my pieces. I feel like it’s going to go well, but one judge could really affect whether or not you make it to nationals.” She is currently “practicing every day with coaches,” and “going over the allotted hour practices,” to ensure the pieces are the best they can be. Molgaard has been competing at nationals for two years. “My first year was Congress Online, and last year was my first in-person competition.”

Molgaard said the team is feeling very stressed, but is so excited for what’s to come. “I’m competing in Informative Speaking and International Extemporaneous, which means I draw three random topics, then get 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech.” A lot of studying and preparation goes into this category. “You have to look at a lot of news because it’s international topics, and you obviously don’t know what topic you’ll get. It takes a lot of preparing and learning about all sorts of news and worldly subjects.” Molgaard tries to read the judges in order to earn the best possible outcome. “I usually change my speech to fit the audience’s desires. If I can tell they don’t like my jokes, I focus more on the topic, or vice versa.” As a whole, Molgaard feels she, and her team, are ready for the weekend ahead.

With the competition being just around the corner, excitement and nerves are high. The team is working towards accomplishing their goals, and the practice continues in hopes for a positive outcome at the 2024 “nat quals.”

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Neal
Alyssa Neal, AHS Needle Senior Editor
Alyssa Neal is a senior at Atlantic High School, and has been in journalism for three years now. She is a lead editor for the AHS Needle website. Neal´s favorite part about journalism is all the different aspects there are to journalism. Neal likes that there are many different ways to hear the news so that ¨everybody in the school can hear the news how they want to hear it.¨ Neal´s favorite memory of journalism was when they went to the KCCI news center in Des Moinesand got to see where they filmed the news at. Neal is looking forward to seeing how fast and how well their AHS needle site is going to be this year because right now it's going really well. She wants to see how many badges the site will get. Her proudest story she has done is her coaches vs. cancer story that she wrote last year for Pink-Out. Other activities Neal is involved in are choir, show choir, cross-country manager, girls basketball manager, Quill and Scroll, AHS needle, and NHS. Neal´s future plans currently are to attend Northwestern Christian in Orange City,Iowa. She is unsure of what her major will be. Story by Aydrie Coffman

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