Despite a year of significant changes to the way competition looked for Brentwood Academy’s seasoned speech and debate team, the young men and women have enjoyed unprecedented success.  

Four BA seniors — Caroline Breen, Sloan Rogers, Jackson Hoppe and Jackson Peden, as well as sophomore Haley Warren — each recently qualified to compete at nationals after earning top spots in seven different events. The students competed against other speech students from high schools all across the state of Tennessee.  

Competition season typically involves as many as 10-12 weekends of travel for the average speech student, performing prepared or impromptu speech events in front of live audiences and judges around the country.  This year, however, the students had to submit performances almost entirely online or virtually, yet found their way to success with this new platform. 

“I am beyond pleased with the efforts of our speech team and the way they have adapted after losing the ability to connect in person with an audience,” Austin Groves, Brentwood Academy upper school speech coach, said. “Engagement is such an important part of the communication process, and this team has stayed motivated, persevered and are seeing the reward. We’re so thankful.”

The BA speech team accumulated seven top-10 finishes as a school, finished in the top six 38 times and were named tournament champions nine times, all while competing virtually for competitions hosted by prestigious programs such as Emory University in Atlanta and Harvard University in Boston. 

In February, Brentwood Academy hosted the only in-person tournament in the state of Tennessee by following COVID-19 protocols and rallying as a community. The tournament accommodated eight schools from Tennessee, with some competitors traveling more than 250 miles away for the chance to compete in-person. Brentwood Academy brought home the gold in team sweepstakes for this tournament and followed it up the next weekend with another first-place finish at the national qualifying tournament.  

The national qualifiers will compete in the events below by submitting videos of their performances online to the National Speech and Debate Association in June.