Speech and debate places 1st at TFA State Meet

Valeria De La Cruz


The speech and debate team earned 1st place sweepstakes at the TFA State Meet on March 14. Jackeline Zapata, Shreya Komire, and Marysa Lozano were among those that were state bound. They said they felt “incredible” with this accomplishment after such a hard year full of challenges caused by the pandemic.

“If I’ve learned anything from our team, it’s that we are capable of overcoming any challenge set forth our way, and this accomplishment really proved that sentiment in the best way possible,” Zapata said. 

Next up for speech and debate is UIL region on April 16th.

“We hope to make our mark there too,” Komire said.


How do you feel about winning 1st in state as a team?

Shreya Komire: I am speechless. All of our hard work paid off in this incredibly hard year.

Marysa Lozano: Being able to say that our Speech and Debate team is first in the state feels absolutely incredible. Not a lot of people understand how much work goes into the team and organization in order to succeed, and with everything going on this year, it seems like the work almost tripled! Although, it all paid off and the team is still feeling the bliss from our big win.

Jackeline Zapata: As a whole, winning 1st Place as a team, especially during such a rough year with the pandemic, felt incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. To be honest, this year has been one of if not the toughest year our team has ever faced, and it became incredibly difficult when we were unable to attend in-person tournaments and have that bonding experience with our other team members. However, if I’ve learned anything from our team, it’s that we are capable of overcoming any challenge set forth our way, and this accomplishment really proved that sentiment in the best way possible. Since this program started about five years ago, becoming the best speech and debate team in the state seemed more like a silly, unrealistic dream, but it feels so overwhelmingly amazing knowing that dream finally came true.


What was your initial reaction to finding out? What was going through your mind?

Shreya Komire: My heart dropped in excitement and I was amazed. My heart and mind were just filled with joy. Every single tournament we had been to this year had paid off in a way where we extended our legacy over the past year.

Marysa Lozano: The day of awards, our team got together and watched the live stream hosted on Zoom. It was such a great way to find out our accomplishments- having all of us together as a team. As the speaker was announcing teams and schools down from 10, my nerves were taking over my body to the point where I was shaking. When she called 2nd place and it wasn’t us, we all were freaking out. And when the announcer called our school for first, we all were jumping around with confetti poppers, screaming with joy. It was an amazing feeling

Jackeline Zapata: I was honestly super surprised and ecstatic that we won such a HUGE accomplishment! When my teammates and I watched the awards ceremony, we had an abundant amount of state finalists and champions, so I was sure that we would receive a place in the top 10 schools in the state, which is already rewarding as it is. However, when the list started narrowing down to the two best schools in the state, it was such a tough and nerve-wracking experience considering that the school we were up against was a nationally-ranked team from Dallas that had won the team state championship numerous times. Because of this, I was beginning to become slightly unsure and doubtful that we would win and already accepted our fate as state runner up, but when they called out the Dallas school in second place, my stomach dropped and my heart was filled with so much joy. I had thought to myself “there’s no way we’re not going to be state champions today,” and I’m so incredibly glad I was right. 


Who do you want to thank for this accomplishment and why?

Shreya Komire: Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Esquivel, and the team. It took all of us taking each and every round seriously to accumulate enough points to beat some of the best in the state and the nation.

Marysa Lozano: This is the easiest question- Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Esquivel, and the team. Our beautiful coaches continued pushing us as hard as they could all throughout the season leading up to now. Everytime I would complain about being stressed or about missing competing live, they were right there to reassure me that this year was going to be worth it and pay off in the end. And it did! The team is a home away from home, and I can’t wait until next year when we can finally get together and bond even more!

Jackeline Zapata: First of all, I wouldn’t even be here talking about the success of TM’s Speech and Debate team if it weren’t for our amazing coaches, Tasha Jones and Linda Esquivel, so they are owed the biggest thanks of all. Along with building myself and others up for success, watching us grow as competitors and people, coordinating practices, and taking us to travel across the state and country, they do so much hard work for the team behind closed doors that have been monumental for our growth, and we owe it to them big time for supporting us until the end. Additionally, I also owe a huge thank you to my amazing teammates for trying your hardest despite such a rough time. I can certainly attest to the fact that this school year was extremely hard in and out of debate, but you all still remained dedicated to your craft and worked tirelessly for our team to grow, and that contributed so much to the reason why we’re state champions in the first place. Also, I strongly thank the Speech and Debate parents, school administrators, and fellow alumni for encouraging us to do our best and providing us with every opportunity possible to grow in this activity we love so dearly. 


Can you tell me a bit about the events you competed with at state?

Shreya Komire: I competed in Cross-Examination Debate, International Extemporaneous Speaking, and Informative Speaking.

Marysa Lozano: I competed with HI (Humorous Interpretation), DI (Dramatic Interpretation), and POI (Program of Oral Interpretation). My HI and DI are 10 minute long monologues that are “cut” from a play and a book. My HI monologue includes about 5 characters, one of them being Darcy, my main humorous character whose main dilemma is trying to figure out where she truly fits in and belongs. My DI is cut from a memoir written by an addict mother, and I act out her story with a sort of pantomime style. My POI is completely woven by me. I use different pieces of prose, poetry, and articles to perform a 10 minute piece about a topic I am passionate about while holding a small black binder as a prop. This year I based my piece on my moms story of teen pregnancy. It means so much to me, and I am so happy that I placed with this event that holds a special place in my heart.

Jackeline Zapata: I competed in two events at State, Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking and Congressional Debate, along with a consolation event, Impromptu Speaking for this year’s competition. Domestic Extemp involves choosing one of three topics relating to current events in the United States, where you are given thirty minutes to prepare a seven minute speech from memory. Additionally, Congressional Debate simulates a mock US congress in which debaters choose an agenda of various bill ranging from foreign and domestic issues and speak in favor or against these pieces of legislation. Finally, the consolation event, Impromptu Speaking, is a speech given from memory that can be either lighthearted or serious, and the speech can be based upon prompts that range from proverbs, current events, celebrities, organizations, and more.


How did you overcome challenges due to the pandemic while competing? 

Shreya Komire: The pandemic led us to having tournaments online and not getting to compete in-person at all. The most fun we have at a tournament is when we all get to interact with one another and meet new people. It’s also very exciting and encouraging when we get to cheer our teammates on while receiving an award and winning the tournament as a team. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to engage with each other, but luckily through Zoom calls and Instagram posts we managed to keep the spirit alive.

Marysa Lozano: It was not easy whatsoever, I can tell you that much. Prior to the pandemic, I was gone every weekend, off in some random high school in different parts of the state. This year, I miss it more than ever. The TFA and NSDA organizations definitely worked its way around the pandemic, having us submit videos for competitions, or doing live streams online to compete virtually. We’ve had to purchase black curtains, ring lights, phone stands, and so much more to achieve the best video quality for our videos. Over the past 3 years, our coaches have certainly spoiled us with all the amazing trips we take to compete throughout the season, and I’m hoping and praying that we are back to normal by next year.

Jackeline Zapata: Thankfully, our team was still able to have competitions on a virtual platform, but that didn’t take away from the fact that adapting to these changes in speech and debate became increasingly difficult for all of us on the team. However, by using team zooms to visit each other during tournaments and update each other on how our rounds went, we were able to get closer to each other and maintain the bond we had with our teammates. All in all, just the continuation of hosting practices in person and reaching out to each other really helped us become stronger. 


Where do you go from here? What comes next for you and your team?

Shreya Komire: I personally have UIL CX State coming up in just a couple of days. As a team, we move forward to compete in UIL. We have UIL district coming up soon and we hope to make our mark there too.

Marysa Lozano: Next up we have UIL, and district actually takes place later this month. From there we have UIL region, and then UIL State (which we hope to have more success in). From UIL we move onto National Qualifiers, and of course then to Nationals for those who qualify. Throughout the year we have gained different bids for other national tournaments like NIETOC (National Individual Events Tournament of Champions) and The Kentucky Tournament. And once the season is over, we start searching for new pieces for the upcoming year.

Jackeline Zapata: Once TFA State comes to an end, this is usually where UIL and NSDA season comes into play. A select amount of debaters and interpers are going to compete on the District Level of UIL, hoping to advance to region and state. After UIL ends, our team competes at a national qualifier in hopes of being able to compete at the National Speech and Debate Association National tournament happening in the summer. Truly, competition never stops for speech and debate, but these competitions are going to be key in strengthening our skills and perfecting our craft. 


What expectations and goals do you have for next year?

Shreya Komire: I hope to break further at state next year and if possible pull off more qualifications. I made quarterfinals in IX (international …….) this year, while competing next to some of the best students in the state/nation. I hope to make it to semifinals or even finals next year. 

Marysa Lozano: I am hoping to go out with a bang and take a State Champion title for my senior year. The past 3 years I have qualified and placed twice, but I am very hungry for that Champion title. I’m also hoping for yet another State Champion place for the team, and to continue on with the tradition that we’ve had for the past two years of having a senior be a triple state finalist.

Jackeline Zapata: For my senior year, in regards to individual goals for myself, I really wanna qualify nationals for the fourth time in a row, making me an official four-time NSDA qualifier. Also, I would love to work towards advancing to state in at least five events and advance to finals at state, hopefully becoming a state champion myself. However, I truly do care more about the team’s success than my own, so all in all, my legitimate goal for my final year in high school debate is to make the team a more loving environment and to make sure we are not only competitively successful, but also happy and cooperative within each other as well. I want to leave my mark on an organization like speech and debate that has changed my life in its entirety, and these are aspirations that I feel will help me achieve that goal.