Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bronx Prep Speech: Bigger and Better

11-13-2010 (Fordham Prep, Bronx NY)

The Bronx Prep Speech Team posted its first championship win of the season with a 1st place finish in Duo Interpretation by Team Captain Tiffany McLarty and her partner, Monica Lindsay. Also, Simone Johnson, a newcomer to the Speech Team, broke into Finals and won 4th Place in JV OI (Junior Varsity Prose/Poetry) - an impressive finish in a field of over 80 competitors. The Team also won 9th Place in the Team Sweepstakes award, which includes the scores of the team's top competitors and ranks the schools against one another for their overall finish in the tournament. This means that on Saturday, Bronx Prep was represented as a Top 10 Speech Team in New York City for the 2nd time this season.

In addition to the aforementioned accolades, BP Speech fans can celebrate the breadth of the squad representing Bronx Prep at Fordham. A whopping 17 entries squeezed into an uptown Bx15 bus to make the short trip up Third Avenue to the campus of Fordham University. The team smashed its previous record of 11 entries, set at the tournament three weeks earlier at Regis High School in Manhattan. This is big, exciting evidence that the Bronx Prep Performing Arts Academy is yielding big time results for more and more students every week.

Several team members were making their season debut and deserve their own shout-out. Congratulations to Clementina Nyarko, Rose Wirekoh and Melanie Nyarko who all broke into their seasons in big ways, posting first and second place finishes in their rounds of JV OI.

These newbies have a lot to aim for, as modeled by the members of the team who not only landed in finals, but finished high enough to earn the coveted prize at every speech tournament: a half-qualification for the New York State Championships. Tiffany and Monica (who was competing for the first time ever in Duo Interpretation) and Simone (in only her second career tournament) are now all one strong finish away from earning their spot at the State Championships in April.

They'll get their shot, along with the other top members of Bronx Prep's squad, this upcoming weekend at the prestigious Villiger Tournament, on the campus of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. The competition will be much stronger, drawing top speakers from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, but the reloaded team of 10-11 will try to recapture the magic and glory of the 08-09 team that boasted not one, but two championships at this national-caliber tournament.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BP Speech: Onwards and Upwards

October 23, 2010

The Bronx Prep Speech Team continued its growth with another successful local tournament over the weekend. Once again, team Manager Joy Akinfenwa led the way as she appeared in Finals for the second straight tournament. Simultaneously, this year's young guns each made their case to be crowned the new Rookie Sensation, with Dianeiris Vasquez staking the early claim, as she also reached the Final Round.

With a team of 11 entries, this was the biggest Bronx Prep squad to enter a local competition in several years. Many members of the young team were competing for their first time and deserve special recognition. These newbies are Samantha White, Dianeiris Vasquez, Paula Castillo, and Olivia Lettsome. Congratulations for putting in the hard work to prepare for your first tournament.

Of the Rookies, Dianeiris led the way - with impressive first place finishes in two of her first three rounds. Her scores put her in Finals, where she impressed the audience as well as the judges with her energy, spunk and comedic chops. She finished in a tie for 7th place - good enough for the coveted half-qualification for this year's State Championship.

In her own Final Round, Joy performed her free verse poem with precision and compassion. She stood on the stage at Regis High School for the second time in three weeks and once again finished at the top of the event - she paired her 3rd place finish from earlier in the month with a 4th place finish this time around and another half-qual for states.

Joy's two fantastic finishes deserve special note. She is now fully-qualled for the State Championships in April - the earliest a Bronx Prep student has qualified for the postseason in several years. Even more impressive, this is Joy's first year competing. She's learned the ropes very quickly, competing against young people with two or three years more experience and establishing herself as one of several students to beat in Varsity Oral Interpretation (Prose/Poetry) in the state of New York.

On the whole, the team enjoyed an extremely strong tournament. In addition to Dianeiris's two first place ranks, Paula, Jada, Olivia, and Jyeisha Reyes all posted first place finishes in a round of their own, while Emmanuel Cruz broke through with a 2nd and 3rd place finish. These are extremely encouraging results from a young team with limited experience, but loads of talent.

Next up for BP Speech is the home tournament - held at Fordham Prep just up the road - on November 13. Expect big things from this squad as the young guns will join the more experienced members of the team that were out of competition at Regis. Bronx Prep will be shooting for a Top Ten Team Sweepstakes finish as the group seeks to establish itself weekly as a top forensics program in New York City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BP Speech Begins Local Season on Cloud 9!


Bronx Prep's speech team began it's campaign in the New York Catholic Forensics League over the weekend and the results show only promise for this year's reloaded squad.

Joy Akinfenwa led the way with a huge 3rd place finish in Varsity Prose, while Sahirah Johnson reached the final round in Dramatic Performance and the whole team combined for a 9th place finish in the Team Sweepstakes awards.

Look to that 9th place Sweepstakes finish as a very positive indicator to big future success for this young squad of talented individuals. The Sweepstakes award uses a point system to add up the achievements of each single competitor in order to give each school attending the tournament an overall score. The award recognizes not only the achievements of a school at a given tournament, but also the size of the team they're able to prepare for competition (in the NYCFL, the Sweepstakes award is almost always won by one of the schools fielding the biggest team). In the past, Bronx Prep has been shut out of a Sweepstakes finish, even when seeing a student win a tournament, because the small size of the team has kept them out of the running. But Saturday, BP broke through into the top ten as the whole team left their mark on the tournament.

That team featured several students who are due recognition for competing in their first tournament ever. These were freshmen Lyvette Soto, Lisette Soto, Jada Gordon, and sophomores Simone Johnson and Omar Ortiz. Every one of these students posted strong ranks and enjoyed the thrill of competition for the very first time.

Meanwhile, the junior members of the Speech Team led by example. Although they're both new to competition, Sahirah Johnson and Joy Akinfenwa acted like seasoned pros as they were featured as Finalists in their respective events. Sahirah's portrayal of Billie Holiday at various stages throughout her life earned her a tie for 6th place - just shy of a half-qualification for the State Championships.

BP's other representative in a Final Round was Joy, who breathed life into a Langston Hughes short story set at sea and steamrolled into the top three, coming away with a prized half-qual for States. This was Joy's second tournament of her speech career, so she deserves serious recognition for placing against competition with years of experience on her. Her finish is a great sign of what may be to come.

...Ditto for the entire team. With the senior members of the Speech Team mainly sitting this tournament out, the young guns flexed some muscle and showed that they're ready to bring this program to the next level.

The second local tournament comes around in a few weeks and the stakes and possibilities will be even greater. If BP can continue to fill out it's teams, a lot more Final Round Judges may get a energizing introduction to some talented kids from the Bronx.

Flame on.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Big Start - BP students in Quarterfinals at Season-Opener


Norberto Troncoso and Monica Lindsay posted top-20 finishes at the prestigious Yale Invitational this weekend as the BP Speech season began with a bang.

This year's reloaded Bronx Prep Speech Team showed up on the campus of Yale University a dozen-strong - tripling the size of last year's team at this tournament. The sudden depth in the squad is a direct result of a team commitment to success that carried through the off-season, as most Bronx Prep speakers at the Yale tournament were seen here at the school, participating in the inaugural BP Speech Boot Camp in August.

Traveling with them were Mr. Simon, Ms. Q and chaperone-judges Ms. Williams and Mr. So - who came through for the team in a huge way for the BP competitors. A special shout-out and thank you to this so special pair.

The Yale Invitational is the first tournament of the year for many forensics teams in America. It's a national-caliber competition that draws students from New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, and even California. Success at this tournament is difficult to come by and a big showing is a strong indicator of who will be setting the pace for the season.

With this in mind, Monica and Nobrerto's achievements must be noted for the promising tone they set for the rest of the year.

Monica was competing in Oral Interpretation for the first time ever, but her results were hardly a surprise, as she worked with focus and determination over the summer to prepare for the Yale competition. She alternated performances of a program of poetry about Hurricane Katrina, with a powerful prose piece about a woman finding ways to deal with her miscarriage.

Norberto was competing in Humorous Interpretation, with his own very humorous, very creative interpretation of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat - as a horrifying crime story. Like Monica, Noberto worked hard in August to set himself up for a big finish over the weekend.

Recognition is also due to several students who competed in their first tournament - no small achievement and something of a trial by fire at one of the biggest tournaments of the season: Jackie Martinez (Original Oratory), Jyeisha Reyes (Oral Interpretation), Emmanuel Cruz (Duo Interpretation), Joy Akinfenwa (OI), and Shakeel Hawker (OI). Props to each of you for preparing performances for national competition before the end of September.

This weekend, the team opens up the local season with the first tournament of the year in the New York CFL - Bronx Prep's local forensics league. Another larger roster could yield big results in the form of trophies and half-qualification for the state tournament. Tune in here next week for Saturday's results.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Moncrief: 5th in America!!!

Kansas City, MO - Bronx Prep, Bronx Prep, where you at, where you at? This question resounded from the midwest back to the east coast in June, when Chris Moncrief achieved the ultimate goal of a forensics competitor to answer clearly and proudly: the NFL National Final Round! Chris performed on a massive stage for fourteen judges and over a thousand audience members while his performance was beamed live via the internet to another cheering crowd back home. Let's take a step back to see how this marvelous moment came to be.

Back in February, Chris competed at the NFL National Qualifier against other New York City students in Original Oratory - the forensics event that requires a student to write their own ten-minute speech and gives them the opportunity to speak their truth when delivering it in a competition. As a senior, Chris is a veteran orator - he had qualified for nationals in 2008 and 2009, so the surprise wasn't his appearance in Qualifier's Final Round - it was his second place finish (after winning first place at this tournament both year's prior). The finish still qualified him for nationals (the top three competitors moved on to represent NYC in Kansas City), but was indicator of the work still be done.

So, Chris went to work. Steadily, amidst all of the responsibilities that come with being an overextended senior, Chris found the time to work with his coaches and on his own to improve the text and delivery of his speech - a ten-minute treatise on the roles that we play in our American society. His work paid off in the form of a State Championship in April, followed by a third place finish at the CFL Nationals in May - the biggest tournament in the US, besides the massive NFL Championships.

In June, Chris left for Kansas City as Bronx Prep's only entry in the tournament. His goal: The Final Round. A national final round is massive deal. Finals of every event happen at a specific time (rather than simultaneously) so that the entire tournament can watch the best of the best compete for the title of National Champion. The round is streamed live on the internet and saved for posterity in the form of a DVD to be distributed throughout the country as an example of best of the best. Finals consists of only six students and after a 7th place finish in '08 and a an 8th place finish in '09, Chris came in hungry.

Most tournaments feature three to five preliminary rounds in one or two days, but NFL nationals is the biggest tournament of the year. Chris scorched through his six preliminary rounds before clearing through to the octofinal rounds and setting the pace for his other competitors. Not content with the top 60 in America, he walked, talked and looked like a champion, moving on briskly to the quarterfinals (top 30) and then the Semifinals (top 14). The crowd gathered as the tournament directors prepared to unveil the Final Round contestants. Suddenly, the sky burst open. The rain poured, lightning and thunder cracked and across the river in Kansas, in looked like a tornado was brewing. But inside, hundreds of excited teenagers held their breaths. Chris looked away as the sheet with the finalists was unveiled; then he looked up with confidence, saw his name, and the celebration began.

Finals at NFL Nationals was a whole other level - both for Chris and for Bronx Prep, who had never seen a student advance this far in forensics. Chris was required to be at the Kansas City Expo center for a mic check early in the morning the day prior to the final round to get a look at the stage - and the space (a massive convention center with room for the thousands of competitors and coaches that assemble for the final rounds). After practicing during the day and watching final rounds in other events in the evening, Chris went to bed knowing the next day he would compete for a national championship.

Meanwhile, back in the South Bronx, preparations were being made for the big day. Chris's final round was streamed live on the internet and his teachers and principal at Bronx Prep helped make arrangements to bring the school community together to celebrate his achievement. The entire middle school assembled in the gym as the projector and big screen were set up for the live feed of the final round. His friends, classmates and protoges looked on as Chris, in Kansas City, was escorted backstage before walking proudly to the center to deliver the biggest speech of his forensics career.

Chris delivered his final speech as a high school competitor with confidence, passion, grace and dignity. He won the admiration of a huge crowd as well as that of his competitors and walked off the stage with much to be proud of. Throughout the final days of the tournament he was approached by strangers who had seen his piece and wanted to offer their praise and congratulations.

That evening, Chris stepped to the stage one final time to find out where he had placed. For this blogger, there should have been no question - he was tops in the round and the best in the country. But this is a big country. Personal and regional preferences come hand in hand with the breadth and diversity that make the NFL National Tournament the biggest and best of the year.
The tinge of disappointment of not finishing first must be weighed against the long-lasting effects of Chris's remarkable achievement.

After returning to the Bronx from Nationals, Chris coached younger orators at an institute in Massachusetts before running his own Oratory Camp at the first ever Bronx Prep Speech Boot Camp. Between his work for his teammates over the summer and the lasting image he presented to the hundreds of younger students watching him on the big screen, Chris left an impression that will have major implications at the Bronx Prep Charter School and elsewhere. He put his school and his community on the map by stepping out in front of thousands to make his voice heard. And he showed the students at BP how much is possible with focus, passion, dedication and poise.

In his 5th place finish, Chris posted a victory for the ages. He showed thousands of people what a kid from the South Bronx can do; and he showed hundreds of kids from the South Bronx what it means to look, act and speak like a champion.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The Bronx Prep Speech Team went big on a national level this postseason as our students matched up with the best of the best at the CFL National Championships. Thousands of students from every state in the country came to Omaha, Nebraska for the penultimate tournament in the 2009-2010 season. BP fielded an impressive three entries in three events: Tayshawn Layton in Dramatic Performance, Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty in Duo Interpretation, and Chris Moncrief in Original Oratory.

These four students had to qualify for this tournament by placing 6th or better at the NYCFL Grand Tournament, held at Stuyvesant High School, back in March. Chris, Tiffany, Keegon and Tayshawn all saw action in a Semifinal or Final Round at the State Championships and these young people arrived in Omaha ready for an exciting weekend and seeking glory on the national level.

The competition was as fierce as can be expected at a tournament of this caliber and after a grueling day of competition, the team took a minute to explore Omaha and it's peaceful riverfront. But the serenity was punctured by the excitement of the dance party, hosted by the tournament, which also served as the announcements for the Out Rounds. Chris, Tiffany and Keegon all went through after the first break and Tayshawn posted strong marks in her first three rounds - putting her in the top 100 Dramatic Performers in the country. Her fresh, fast-paced RE-interpretation of The Princess Bride was a pretty awesome way to round out her speech career.

Tiff and Keegon went all out in their octo-final round, but it wasn't meant to be. A CFL Octofinal round is a tricky thing; you're top 50 in the country and suddenly the competition is insane. Tiff and Keegon just missed the cut, ending their season with one of the most provocative pieces on the circuit. This was strong work, day in and day out and they have much to be proud of.

As does... Team Manager, Chris Moncrief. Chris recovered after squeezing through in a challenging quarterfinal round, delivered a smash semifinal performance and found himself at a pinnacle of high school forensics: The Final Round at CFL Nationals. The students performed for a packed lecture hall and the round was excellent, with students from Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, California, and our own Bronx Boy, Chris representing New York. Chris nailed his speech - a complex consideration of the roles individuals cast and take on in our society - and left it to the judges to determine the result.

Chris stood proudly in the convention hall in front of thousands for the awards ceremony, where he collected his third place trophy. His success put him in elite company as a speaker to watch for the upcoming NFL National tournament - the only tournament bigger than the CFL National. But do pause to consider Chris's achievement here at CFL's: He was the third place finisher in a tournament with hundreds of students from across the country - all of whom had finished in the top six or better in their region! He's at the top of his game and he's written an excellent speech - and it's easy for most judges to see that.

All but one tournament remains on the Bronx Prep schedule, but it's the biggest one of all: The NFL National Championships - a week-long competition, featuring over 5,000 students from nearly every school with a forensics program in America. Chris Moncrief is BP's only entry, but after finishing in the money at the CFL, he is aiming for a speech student's holy grail: the NFL National Final Round, which is streamed live on the internet and recorded for distribution on DVD. Can Chris bring it all home? Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

State Champion! Moncrief Wins Oratory; The Shipment Third in New York

April 25, 2010

The Bronx Prep Speech team produced a bang-up result against New York forensics' finest, with a seriously impressive haul at this year's State Championships, held over the weekend in Mineola, NY. Of four entries, three reached the semifinals, two competed in a final round and one came away as the New York State Champion for 2010!

That champion would be Team Manager, Chris Moncrief, who completed his speech career at the state level as the most decorated orator in New York history. Records going back to 1982 indicate that he is the only student in NYSFL history to win two state championships ('08 and '10) in Original Oratory! Combined with his runner-up finish last year, Chris's string of 1st, 2nd and 1st from 2008-2010 is one that may not be equalled by another student in New York for years to come. Chris will compete against the best in the country in his quest to make it to the stage for the final round of the National competition in June. Congratulations on a fantastic tournament and another remarkable finish!

But that's not all! Both Bronx Prep Duo teams reached the Semifinal round, establishing the teams of Tiffany McLarty/Keegon Robinson and Deborah Allen-Carr/Tayshawn Layton as two of the ten best this year in New York. Deborah and Tayshawn did not advance to the Final round, but showed poise, dedication and passion as they put together a new version of The Princess Bride in roughly two weeks. They finished in 8th place and deserve mad props.

Meanwhile, Tiffany and Keegon, posted very strong ranks in the other Semifinal room and advanced to the Finals, where they performed as the final contestants in the round. A buzz filled the room as the took their places - the effect of the considerable reputation these two have achieved throughout the year for their hilariouis and thought-provoking interpretation of Young Jean Lee's The Shipment. The performance was near perfect and the room was uproarious in its response - causing the two to pause frequently for the big laughs as the clock kept running. With a time limit of 10 minutes, thirty seconds, the crowd held it's breath while the timekeeper made his announcement: "10:29!" A gasp of elation and sigh of relief went around the room, as the performance was recognized as within the time limits and up to the judges to decide.

Ah, those judges. The Duo final had five of them and they each brought their own unique perspective. Every judge chose a different team as the last place performer and the scores were all over the place. When they were added to the preliminary and semifinal results, the Bronx Prep team ended the day in 3rd place. To this blogger, the team was clearly the best in the state, but interpretation events are notoriously subjective and their piece is not necessarily for the conservative-minded. Regardless, Tiffany and Keegon's bronze finish is a massive accomplishment. They should be proud not only for this recognition, but for bringing an important piece of theater with an important plea - to talk about race - to a wider audience. Mad props to Tiffany and Keegon for starting a conversation - this is what speech is all about.

That fourth entry? That was Sahirah Johnson, one of Bronx Prep's Rookie Sensations (along with Norberto Troncoso, who came along to support the squad), competing in JV Oral Interpretation. Sahirah posted strong ranks for her Prose and Poetry pieces, but just missed the break in a very competitive event. Here's a shoutout to Sahirah for an awesome season - she joined the team halfway through the year, practiced as hard as any other member, picked up her own hardware and strung together two big finishes to qualify for the State Championships. Expect big things from this young lady in 2011.

With States in the books as a major success, the team looks ahead to the two national tournaments: the CFL and NFL championships. Only Mr. Moncrief will compete at NFL's, but Bronx Prep will field three entries at the CFL Nationals over Memorial Day weekend in Omaha, NE: Tayshawn Layton goes on her own in the event of Dramatic Performance, Keegon and Tiffany look for a wider audience in Duo, and Chris will look to break through at a tournament that is consistently unreliable.

Here's hoping the 2010 postseason keeps rolling along for the Bronx Prep Speech Team.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last Chance, Rookies

March 13, 2010

The Bronx Prep Speech Team brought both of its Rookie Sensations up to Iona High School in New Rochelle, for their last chance to join the veterans on the squad and qualify for the NYS Championships.

The team was made up of Chris Moncrief and Keegon Robinson (who competed in what was, without a doubt, the most entertaining Student Congress session of the entire forensics season) and Rookie Sensations Sahirah Johnson and Norberto Troncoso, each competing in JV Oral Interpretation (Prose/Poetry).

While Chris and Keegon were only there to support their squad and enjoy themselves, Sahirah and Norberto were putting it all on the line. They needed a top three finish to get themselves a half-qualification for states.

As he has all year, Norberto competed with zest and assurance, performing a collection of poetry entitled "Freaks" and a short story by David Sedaris. Norberto has had an extremely strong Rookie season, competing in a slew of tournaments, working diligently and showing improvement each time out. However, it just wasn't meant to be at this tournament, and he finished just out of the running.

Meanwhile, Sahirah Johnson non-chalantly collected her hardware for third place to go along with her second half-qualification in JV OI. Her finish puts her in pretty impressive company as she joins an already stacked Bronx Prep team, ready for action at the State Championships.

This tournament marked the end of the speech regular season and begins the anticipation for the postseason, which features the Big Three tournaments. Here's a rundown:

New York State Championships (4/23-24, Mineola, NY) -
Chris Moncrief (Oratory)
Keegon Robinson/Tiffany McLarty,
Deborah Allen-Carr/Tayshawn Layton (Duo Interpretation)
Sahirah Johnson (JV Oral Interpretation)

CFL Nationals (5/28-31, Omaha, NE) -
Chris (Oratory)
Keegon/Tiffany (Duo),
Tayshawn (Dramatic Performance)

NFL Nationals (6/13-20, St. Louis, MO) -
Chris (Oratory)

Bronx Prep's own preparing to compete against the best in the state, and in the country? These are huge tournaments coming down the pipe and each entry has a chance at going deep in all of these competitions.

If you haven't seen these kids perform yet, now is your chance. As April, May and June roll around, we could have confirmed that some of the country's top forensics competitors come from right here at Bronx Prep.

Meet Me in... Omaha!

March 6, 2010

Oh yes, they did it again! The Bronx Prep Speech Team pulled out a huge tournament at the CFL National Qualifier, held in Tribeca at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School.

Last year's remarkable finish put four Bronx Prep entries and six students into the CFL Championships and this year's tournament was nearly as successful. The CFL stands for the Catholic Forensics League, but for this team, it might as well be the Can't Fail League. The top six competitors in each event at this qualifier earn themselves a slot at CFL Nationals, held this year in Omaha, Nebraska.

From the top: Chris Moncrief qualified for his third CFL Nationals in a row, finishing in second place in Original Oratory. Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty finished 4th in Duo Interpretation - they will each compete at "Cat Nats" for their second year in a row. And the shock finish of the tournament? Ms. Tayshawn Layton, competing for the first time all year in the event of Dramatic Performance, proved what we all knew all along: this young lady has serious talent.

Tayshawn did what no Bronx Prep Speech competitor has done all year: she found her own source material (a Junie B. Jones short story), created her own interpretation (let's just say that in this version, Junie B. wasn't exactly... white), and practiced enough on her own to get herself in form for competition. Tayshawn didn't let frustrating finishes at the Harvard or District tournament dispel her, worked hard with her coaches and earned her spot - she'll compete on this year's NYC CFL team by way of her sixth place finish.

Let's tally that up! Bronx Prep's CFL National Championship Entry by the numbers: three entries in three different events and a whopping four competitors for BP will be traveling to Omaha in May to represent the New York City region. It was good enough to earn Bronx Prep an 11th place finish in the Sweepstakes Team competition at the tournament.

Ever been to Nebraska? Neither have we, but thanks to the hard work and strong finishes of these four students, we'll be able to tell you what it's like, come this May.

Meet Me in St. Louis

February 27, 2010

The Bronx Prep Speech Team put it all on the line at this year's NFL national qualifier - the only tournament that provides speech competitors with the opportunity to compete in the biggest speech tournament of the year - the National Forensics League Championships, held over a week in June, this year in St. Louis, MO.

It was a day of joy and heartbreak at Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY as the team experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

The District tournament qualifies the top three competitors in each category for the national championships and the day started strongly for many of the Bronx Prep competitors. The Duo teams of Deborah Allen-Carr and Tayshawn Layton and Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty all reached the semifinal round of competition, while Chris Moncrief also cleared through to Semis, competing in Original Oratory.

By the time the Final rounds were posted, Deborah and Tayshawn were no longer in competition. This left Tiff, Keegon and Chris to compete for one of the coveted top three spots in their respective events.

After an extremely long hiatus, the drama of the awards presentation began. The first awards announced were for Duo Interpretation and they brought a heartbreaker - a fourth place finish for Bronx Prep's Tiffany and Keegon, putting them in the alternate slot for Nationals. The Oratory awards were a more encouraging affair, as Chris Moncrief finished in 2nd place, earning himself a slot at nationals for a remarkable third year in a row.

The good news is that BP will again be represented at Nationals and Chris Moncrief will have one last chance to compete on the national stage in the final six (he finished 7th and 8th in '08 and '09, respectively).

Additionally, the season is far from over. Tiff and Keegon will have their shot at redemption when the NY State Championships rolls around and Bronx Prep fields a larger, more competitive squad than last year.

Until then, the sting will subside and the team will get back to work. No matter what the setback, in the world of forensics, there is always another tournament and another shot at victory. As the postseason approaches, each shot brings an opportunity for greater glory. Here's hoping this year's postseason is as glorious as ever.

Duo Team Quals for States, will Join Teammates in Mineola

February 20, 2010

Tayshawn Layton and Deborah Allen-Carr turned in a strong performance at the New York State Regional Qualifier and earned themselves a qualification for the State Championships, coming up in April.

Tayshawn and Deborah have already had a strong season, including a semifinal finish at the big-time Villiger tournament, but the goal of a state qualification had eluded them until now. The Regional tournament is an odd duck - three preliminary rounds, no final round and multiple judges in each round. The main goal of the tournament is to qualify deserving students for states and it's the only competition of the year to offer full qualifications for the State tournament.

Deborah and Tay took full advantage of this. Competing as a team in Duo Interpretation, they streaked through the tournament and were never ranked lower than 3rd - finishing in a tie for second place and leaving as state qualifiers.

Their teammates Norberto Troncoso, Sahirah Johnson, and Marissa Charlemagne also put in strong showings that showed clear progress in their work throughout the season, but they did not finish high enough to receive a qualification. They will have one more shot at achieving this goal at the so-called "last chance" tournament in March.

Deborah and Tayshawn's qualification puts the 09-10 Bronx Prep Speech Team over the top of the pace set by last year's squad. While the 08-09 team saw a semifinal and 2nd place finish at the State Championship, this year's squad has the potential to do even more damage. Chris Moncrief is qualified in Original Oratory, and now two Duo teams, Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty and Deborah and Tayshawn, will be competing to be crowned New York States best.

Will more competitors at states lead to more hardware for the squad? Will the coveted New York State Championship plaque return to Bronx Prep after a nearly two-year hiatus? You'll find out right here, come April.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Disappointment Delivered Down in the Dirty Dirty

February 1, 2010 - Atlanta, GA

The Bronx Prep speech team flew to Atlanta, Georgia for the toughest speech tournament of the year, the Barkeley Forum Invitational. But despite the strong showing the team posted last year (Chris Moncrief finished in 2nd place in Original Oratory in '09), the team left Atlanta without hardware this time around.

Made up of veteran competitors, this year's Barkeley Forum squad of Tayshawn Layton, Deborah Allen-Carr, Chris Moncrief, Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty seemed well-positioned to make a run for finals at this tournament, but it's just not always in the cards in high school forensics. While Keegon and Tiffany did reach the quafterfinals in the Duo category, Tayshawn, Deborah and Chris were all held just short of glory and couldn't quite get out of the preliminary rounds.

This blogger was in attendance as Keegon and Tiff performed to a raucous crowd in the quarterfinal and the ranks from the judges (including a 4th and 5th place decision) were surprising to say the least. I have to agree with the third judge, who ranked them first, and stated on the ballot, "If you two don't reach finals, I quit!"

And so, the team looked on as audience members as a full day of final rounds were presented on the beautiful campus of Emory University. The presentations were impressive, but it was clear that any of the Bronx Prep entries could have held their own on that stage. So... what happened? Is the south just not ready for a badass piece from the Bronx? Is a national representation needed to advance at this tournament? Do aspects of these pieces not jive with judges from other regions of the country? These are questions that a head coach of a forensics program may be asking him or herself when dealing with a surprising response to a great performance.

Every season has its setbacks and it's the teams that bounce back and find answers to questions like those listed above that separate the great programs from the good ones. We'll find out which type of team we've got here at Bronx Prep as the postseason approaches...

The Shipment Arrives Uptown

January 24, 2010 - Upper West Side, New York City

Bronx Prep's newest powerhouse Duo team continued to flex its muscles at a national tournament held locally, at Columbia University. The team of Keegon Robinson and Tiffany McLarty continued their hot streak by reaching the finals for the third tournament in a row and finishing in 4th place.

The Invitational Tournament at Columbia drew strong competition from schools throughout the northeast, so Keegon and Tiffany's success is more impressive than their 1st and 2nd place finishes in the last few weeks. Their finish proves their standing on the national level as they wowed audiences and judges alike from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and throughout New England.

Tiff and Keegon were nearly joined by Deborah Allen-Carr and Tayshawn Layton, who used their own interpretation of the musical, Chicago, to bring themselves to the doorstep of the semi-finals. But, unfortunately, reaching the doorstep doesn't get you in the house and it was only Keegon and Tiffany that were representing Bronx Prep on Sunday. For the third weekend in a row, they wowed a packed house in finals and were rewarded for their efforts

Keegon and Tiffany's piece, a black-identity politics play by the experimental playwright Young Jean Lee is fresh and very funny, but not for everyone. The challenge this season will be sustaining their success beyond the comedy and shock value of the piece while working to endear themselves to judges put off by the style and heavy subject matter. Next weekend's trip to Atlanta will be the first major test in this endeavor.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Speech Team Makes Like Jets and Takes Off


Mineola, NY - The Bronx Prep Speech Team broke into 2010 in a big way on Saturday with every competing member of the team showing marked improvement at the Chaminade Invitational tournament on Long Island. Norberto Troncoso, Alethea Brown, and Monica Lindsay all took huge strides and made major progress, while Keegon Robinson, Tiffany McLarty and Sahirah Johnson had huge days and finished at the top in their respective events.

Besides the win by Long Island's favorite football team, the surging New York Jets, the big story on Saturday was the Duo team of Keegon and Tiffany, who joined forces to present The Shipment - a ten-minute cutting of Young Jean Lee's experimental play. They tore through the preliminary rounds like the Jets running game, before lighting up a packed house in Finals and fninishing in second place. Their finish earned them some serious hardware (on display in the Library) and even more importantly, a half-qualification for the NYS championships. Another finish like that at this weekend's tournament will earn them a slot in this year's state championships - the Super Bowl of the New York Forensics world - with far better odds to win than 50-1.

Meanwhile, Sahirah Johnson made the most successful debut of a Bronx Prep speech competitor in recent memory. Competing in Oral Interpretation against students with years of experience, she finished 2nd in each of her three preliminary rounds, tying the score needed to make Finals, and earning an Honorable Mention. Of the 124 students competing in OI on Saturday, Sahirah finished in a tie for 16th. Her successful start was almost as impressive as a rookie quarterback delivering his franchise's first playoff win in five years.

The Jets head to San Diego this weekend for their competition, but the BP speech team will stay much closer to home, competing at Regis and Loyola High Schools on the Upper East Side. The team will send more competitors and will be represented in nearly every competition event as BP Speech continues to expand and the team members continue to improve. Here's hoping that hard work, focus and determination during this week's practices will lead to another weekend of dual success.