State forensics tournament hosted on the Hill


Ayathi Gogineni

Competitors from across the Commonwealth of Virginia gathered for the state forensics tournament on March 26.

Ben Schneider, Editor

On March 26, Clover Hill hosted the Virginia High School League (VHSL) state forensics tournament. Although no Cavaliers participated in the competition, student volunteers helped run the event.

Forensics is competitive public speaking; students speak to a panel of judges and compete in several different styles of speech. English teacher Jessica Fout directed the state tournament, which featured students from across Virginia in a competition to determine public speaking state champions.

There are about a dozen different categories ranging from serious to funny, and prepared to off the cuff,” Fout said. “It’s a great event to help students get more comfortable speaking in front of groups.”

The Virginia High School League selected Clover Hill as the new host of the state forensics tournament in 2014 after Harrisonburg High School ended its term as the host school after eight years. 

“The people who were in charge of the state tournament at the time both liked the idea of moving the tournament to a more central location in the state and the building was pretty new at the time, so they asked if CHHS would consider hosting,” Fout said. “I submitted a hosting plan, they liked it & we have served as the host site ever since!”

Fout prepares for months leading up to the forensics tournament using checklists that detail everything that the school has to do to host the event. Each year, she learns something new that she can implement the next year to improve it. 

“Since we have done this for several years now, my lists are pretty good,” Fout said. “After each State tournament, I make notes about what we ran out of, what we can tweak for next year so that I am better prepared each time.”

This year, there were approximately 450 students from 100 different schools at the tournament. According to Fout, it took plenty of work and space to set it up and ensure that everything operated smoothly. 

“We used almost every classroom in the building, so it took the support of the whole staff to make their rooms open & available,” Fout said. “It took input from the VHSL staff in terms of what they needed to be available to them on tournament day.  It took an incredible amount of work from our custodians to keep trash cans emptied & bathrooms stocked on tournament day.  It took our CHEHS [Clover Hill English Honor Society] volunteers to be my boots on the ground on Saturday — I could not have done that without them!”

Senior Saniya Webb White volunteered during the late shift from three to seven, which entailed cleaning up at the end of the day.

“I cleaned up after all of the judges and competitors and made sure all of the teachers’ rooms were cleaned,” Webb White said. “We had to move tables and chairs into the forum.”

Junior Monica Gutierrez did the early morning shift where she kept the coolers stocked with drinks, set up the breakfast food and snacks, and provided chairs for the competitors. To her surprise, she enjoyed the work and the experience of being at the tournament. 

“At first I thought it would be boring and tiring, but I actually enjoyed it,” Gutierrez said. “It was really fun to do all these small jobs! Also, it was interesting to see just how many schools existed across Virginia as countless people came into our school.”

Though the volunteers focused on their tasks and did not have the chance to see the actual competitions for each category, they did get to see the participants preparing for their speeches. 

“Lots of the competitors were practicing their lines in front of a wall or in a corner,” Gutierrez said. 

She believes that the staff and student volunteers did well keeping the event running and preventing problems so that the state tournament could happen. 

“I feel that Clover Hill did a good job in hosting the competition,” Gutierrez said. “We were able to accommodate the needs of all the people that were in the building.”

At the end of the competition, Webb White was struck by the speakers’ excitement when she watched the awards ceremony.

“It was interesting to see how passionate they were about forensics,” Webb White said. “They were all very kind, friendly, and theatrical and you could see how much they loved to be a part of it.”