Nidhi Byragoni Qualifies For the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament

The WHS speech team continues its successful season with senior Nidhi Byragoni’s qualification for the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) upcoming national tournament. Byragoni competed in the Informative Speaking category at the New England District competition and broke into—or advanced to—the final round, during which judges ranked Byragoni’s performance high enough for her to qualify for the national-level competition. Currently, Byragoni is ranked fifth in the state in the Informative Speech category with 292 points. 

“I competed at [the NSDA Nationals’ qualifier] tournament for the first time during sophomore year, and I didn’t even come close to being an alternate,” Byragoni said. “After awards, I saw these really talented students all around me posing with their NSDA plaques, and I vowed to be that person someday. Unfortunately, I caught the flu two days before qualifiers last year, so my desire to qualify as a senior became immensely stronger.”

With high expectations for herself this year, Byragoni carefully chose and perfected a piece to perform at the qualifier tournament. Inspired by a lesson in her AP Psychology class, Byragoni decided to perform an informative piece on the reliability of eyewitness testimonies. 

“After [a] psych class on memory, I became really interested in the subject and did further research on how and why mistakes surrounding witnessed memory are made (I have to thank Mr. Gitkind for that),” Byragoni said. “I had a lot of fun giving this speech, and I hope my judges and fellow competitors enjoyed hearing it, as it is an interesting subject.”

Byragoni is the second student in WHS’s speech team history to qualify for NSDA Nationals, so with this accomplishment in mind, Byragoni was particularly motivated to do well at qualifiers. However, the virtual format of the tournament presented a foreign challenge to Byragoni and her competitors. 

“Since all tournaments have been virtual so far this year, I haven’t been able to fully see everyone else’s performances, so I went into this tournament with little knowledge of my competitors,” Byragoni said. “Although this may seem like a benefitting factor, I was competing against people who have beaten me in previous tournaments, so I could only judge them on how dangerous they were to me and I didn’t even consider that my speech could be just as strong.”

Nonetheless, Byragoni accomplished her goals and will soon face a new echelon of national competitors in mid-June. The national tournament will also be held virtually and will consist of two days of preliminary rounds followed by a series of elimination rounds. Well-prepared and excited for the challenge, Byragoni looks forward to closing her high school speech career on such a high note. 

“I wanted to attend this tournament for two years now and I finally got the chance, so it would be an amazing learning experience,” Byragoni said. “I’m also going to compete against people who have qualified for two plus years, so I would love to watch their performances and take note of their abilities and talents.”