Forensics teams adapt to virtual competition

February 25, 2021

Coalfield Progress - Homespun

Eastside High School

The date was March 7, 2020.The two time defending VHSL Class 1 State Champions from Eastside had just claimed a Super Regions 1CD title with first place finishes in four categories. The Spartans were poised to contend for a three-peat just weeks later in Midlothian, Virginia.What happened next was a story that has been all too familiar to so many.

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the State tournament, leaving these hard working students with a bittersweet conclusion to an incredible year.For months, questions loomed large:Would there be a 2021 tournament?Would there be sports or activities of any kind?The solution was to devise a “virtual tournament” where students would utilize technology to compete remotely.Even the coaches and judges would join by remote devices.

Coach Shane Burke from Eastside High School was tasked with hosting the Region 1D round of competition on Saturday, February 20.Burke knew immediately that this year would be an even greater challenge due to the ever changing nature of this pandemic, the limits of practice time and the technological requirements of conducting an online tournament. “We are breaking new ground here,” Burke said.“Not only do our kids have to train for the competition as usual, but they also have to adapt the way they compete.  These students are incredible and I believe they are up to the challenge.”

In the weeks leading up to competition, bad weather, sickness and school closures all impacted practice time.Often meeting remotely with students, Burke continued to work with each team member one by one.The result was a record setting day for the Spartans, scoring the most points ever for their team in a regional tournament.Eastside claimed the Region 1D Title on the strength of six first place finishes.    

Senior Sarah Burke spoke to the importance of having a competition even in the midst of a pandemic.“Being a part of this team has really grounded me in the fact that there are still a lot of happy moments for us.There is so much love and support around us.I’m so thankful that we get the opportunity to do this when so many are missing out this year.”

Fellow Senior classmate Cloey Bailey added, “Forensics has definitely been a challenge this year with the virtual aspect.Our team has worked hard to overcome those challenges and be successful and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it, especially since this is my last year on this team.”

Individual rankings were as follows:   

Extemporaneous Speaking: 2nd place - Colby Farmer

Humorous Duo: 1st place - Katie Levy and Cassidy Funk

Humorous Interpretation: 4th place - Caitlyn Shepherd

7th place - Cadence Fuller

Impromptu:        2nd place - Jacob Sawyers

Original Oratory: 1st place - Tayler Banks

4th place - Jasmine Harvey


Poetry: 1st place - Cloey Bailey

6th place - Isabella Dingus

Prose: 1st place - Olivia Adkins

3rd place - Kadence Mullis


Serious Dramatic Interpretation: 1st place - Hadassah White

Serious Duo: 1st Place - Sarah Burke and Malik Jallow

Storytelling: 2nd place - Kyleigh Harmon

Students from John I Burton also competed in the Regional tournament. Noah Elkins ranked first in Storytelling.Elora Hutchinson ranked second in Serious Dramatic Interpretation.Shamiyeh Noel ranked first in Humorous Interpretation.Congratulations to the Raiders on their outstanding performances as well.

The top three finishers from each category will advance to the Super Regions round of competition, where the Spartans look to defend their victory from last year.

Provided by Brandon White