Forensics kicks off 2022-23 season bringing “connectedness” back


Ethan Parab

The Forensics team enjoys a moment between rounds during a tournament.

After its first few tournaments this month, West’s Forensics team is excited to start off its 2022-23 season better than ever, focusing this year on “connectedness” after the pandemic according to Ms. Grace Rangira, head coach.

“Students have been practicing for almost a month and a half and we are now entering our first competitions,” said Ms. Rangira. The seasons new members (known as novices) and for varsity have both started. In its first three meets, the team placed a total of thirteen times, making it to finals in two more cases.

The Forensics team is a tightly-knit competitive group which performs in several speech-centered events. According to Mr. Hateem Khan, senior and member of Forensics’ board and spirit squad (a group promoting team-building), there are 14 different events which the team splits up into. The team has historically been a strong contender in the region, competing at the state level many times in its history.

“Being able to express myself creatively and in such a unique way is so, so cool and so fun,” said Mr. George Bender, senior and co-captain of the team. “The biggest experience that I’ve had is just that opening of me being able to be creative, because I never really did that before.”

Members of all the teams at the meet crowd around the postings of the meet’s finalists. (Ethan Parab)

Members of the team emphasize strong bonds with their teammates. “Our West team has been built on that big family type thing,” said Mr. Caden Gowans, member of Forensics. “I haven’t really felt it with any other involvement. In Forensics, it’s very focused on the people and in that family environment.”

“With Forensics, you get hooked into the community and the family aspect,” said Ms. Rangira. However, that side of Forensics was “challenging” to maintain during the pandemic.

“Technically, Forensics went on, but the whole thing with Forensics is being in person,” said Mr. Gowans. “You’re still trying to place higher and higher in your individual events but that whole component of socialization and meeting all these cool, different people at the competitions is just removed from it.”

“Honestly just comparing from last year and this year, we haven’t had that many novices this year,” said Mr. Khan.

Forensics was not alone in facing these issues. According to Mr. Christopher Mitchell, Assistant Principal of Student Services, involvement in general was “much lower” during the 2019-20 school year. This year is “up from the previous year, but down from what our normal enrollment would be.” West is, however, “starting to see that return to our normal numbers,” said Mr. Mitchell.

West’s Forensics team poses for a photo, finishing off a meet at Wheaton North High School. (Ethan Parab)

“We do feel the effects of it here […] but realistically, I think the kind of the team that we’ve been building over the past 20 years that forensics has been at West–I feel like that team aspect is still there and that hasn’t left at all,” said Mr. Bender.

The culture of having a speech team around here extends even further than that. Mr. Steven Wiersum, sponsor of the Historic Society, mentioned that a Debate club started back in 1959. He provided a replica of a newspaper from 1919 which chronicles the activity of the “Erodelphian Society” and “Athenian Society,” which would debate against each other.

“The competitive spirit predates the high school itself,” said Mr. Wiersum. “Even before we had a high school, we had a football team and a basketball team. […] For whatever reason, our DNA is built on healthy competitiveness.”

“Part of that competitive spirit is because we like to achieve and it’s something that we value, and we don’t value it in a competitive way because it’s about always having to win at all costs. It’s about doing things the right way,” said Mr. Mitchell.

Ms. Rangira, a member herself back when she was a student at Glenbard West, said the head coach in her time “totally change[d] the trajectory of [her] life by getting [her] involved.” 

“It takes a lot of critique to do speech,” said Ms. Rangira. “I feel like it helped me to be someone who seeks out feedback and can take it without it being personal.” Every one of the current members of Forensics interviewed made similar comments around the importance of self-improvement through critique.

Ms. Rangira hopes to emphasize “connectedness” this year in recovery from the pandemic: “connecting with each other, connecting with the Glenbard community, and connecting with their audience members when they’re performing.” Let’s see what this season will bring for the team!