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.