BONSALL – A veritable David and Goliath story is unfolding at Bonsall High School in the form of a speech and debate team.
Bonsall High School, established in 2014, has just over 300 students. In most school-to-school competitions, like athletics, the schools are placed in a division where they compete with schools of a similar size.
In speech and debate, competitions are organized regionally in leagues open to all in that area. That means, the Bonsall squad, whose entire team is made up of only 15 competitors (of which only three or four students have competed at any one event) faces schools who bring busloads of participants.
"I've judged speech and debate for years, and it warmed my heart to see our tiny school go head-to-head with giants like Carlsbad, Francis Parker, The Bishop's School, and the like. We are competing against programs who have developed programs for decades, and we are holding our own. It's remarkable," commented speech/debate judge and BUSD Trustee Michael Gaddis.
At the recent San Diego Imperial Valley League Individual Events competition, three out of the four BHS competitors made it to the semi-final round or beyond in their respective categories.
One sophomore student, Leo Preston, placed fifth in the finals in International Extemporaneous, the first time anyone from Bonsall Unified had entered that event. Freshman Aaron Arellano also placed in the finals in his first tournament earlier in the year in Impromptu and finished fourth in the semis in his group. Another first time competitor and freshman, Jorge Hernandez, placed sixth in the semi's. Also competing that day was sophomore baseball player Brant Chudomelka.
When asked about making it to the finals on his first attempt, Preston said, "It was my first time, so I didn't know what to expect." Preston, an Eagle Scout with ambitions to attend an Ivy League school after he graduates in 2026, and the rest of his team were at the event from 7 a.m. until the awards were presented just shy of 11 p.m. "Who knew Speech was an endurance event," he quipped.
Veteran Bonsall High School Spanish and Native Studies teacher Greg Hinchliff teaches the high school's speech and debate class, advises the speech and debate club, as well as coaches the team.
"I am incredibly proud of our Legionnaire speech and debate team. Each member is continually refining their talents, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and proving their stamina in the face of new challenges," said Coach Hinchliff.
The district recently sponsored team members to join the National Speech and Debate Association for lifetime membership. The BHS team is not top heavy with graduating seniors, as most small programs find themselves.
While club president Mahala Sayler, a senior, and juniors Jeffrey Lee, Matthew Such, and Nonyi Usua provide encouragement for their more junior team members, freshmen and sophomores have been competing in new events and finding themselves placing in the semis and finals.
"It's an honor to watch the next generation of debaters carry on Bonsall's brilliant energy," said club vice-president Lee, who in addition to being the student body president also serves as the Student Trustee on the Bonsall Unified School Board.
Hinchliff's speech class has been featured on ABC 10News for helping students "identify what is true and factual" in this day and age of misinformation. He plans on growing the program in years to come by entering more competitions and coaching students to compete in more varied events."
"What's more rewarding for me is to see the kids try something new. Last year, Matthew Such earned a medal in the Original Prose Poetry competition. This year, we are gearing up to have our first entries into public forum debate and duo interpretation."
Submitted by Bonsall Unified School District.