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The students from this small-town school on the hill went to Reno, Nevada for the 2024 Phi Rho Pi Tournament. They competed in the Large School Open Division — featuring schools such as hosts Mt. San Antonio College and Los Angeles Valley College, which have student enrollments of roughly 25,000 and 16,000, respectively.

When it was over, the Talk Hawks were not only national champions but the talk of the tournament. They returned home with a record 26 awards. Their previous high for the number of speeches awarded in a single competition was 12. They had 13 speeches advance to the final round.

Anna Wolde won top speaker honors of the tournament, becoming the third student from Las Positas to do so at nationals. The previous two were Brennan Mock in 2021 and Bob Pimentel in 1984. Wolde won gold in four categories: Oral Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation, and two Duo Interpretations with teammates Zac Furber-Dobson and Jackie Garcia.

In addition to Wolde, three other Talk Hawks finished among the five top overall speakers in the tournament. Furber-Dobson won third, totaling three golds and a bronze. Garcia ranked fourth, winning two golds and two bronze awards. Claire Willard finished fifth with two silvers and two bronze awards.

The Talk Hawks’ dominance at nationals was a fitting cap to what’s been a banner season. They won nine gold medals this season, pushing the program’s all-time total to 24 golds. 

The season will be celebrated at the Talk Hawks annual Speech Night Performance, May 10th at 7 p.m. on the Main Stage Theater in the Barbara Mertes Center. 

“We were the talk of nationals,” James Dobson, communications studies professor and co-coach of the Talk Hawks, said in an email to the school announcing the national championship. “Where did this tiny school of 9,000 students come from to sweep up all the awards?”

THE TALK HAWKS delegation racked up 26 awards at the 2024 Pho Ri Pho tournament, pitting community college forensics teams across the nation. (Photos courtesy of Anna Wolde)

Every speech the Talk Hawks entered in four categories advanced: Communication Analysis, Speech to Entertain, Extemporaneous Speaking and Dramatic Interpretation. 

The Talk Hawks delegation of 10 students competed in four categories: Communication Analysis, Speech to Entertain, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Dramatic Interpretation. The Talk Gawks had nine students win at least two awards and five had all four of their speeches advance to the elimination rounds.

Sean McGroy who won two silver and two bronze awards. Xander Struckman won two golds. Annie Moore won three bronze awards. Zhulie Wahidi won a silver and a bronze. Branden Sandner who two bronze awards. Demi Starzak also competed for the Talk Hawks.

Top Illustration: Anna Wolde kisses her “top talker” award from the national championships.  (Image courtesy of @Anna_Wolde) Note: Photo background enhanced for size by AI.

Sydney Breckenridge is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Express. Follow her on X, formally Twitter, @SydBreckenridge.

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