Leah Rogers-First at State

Saturday morning at Ripon College was not what one would expect from a state Forensics meet. Amidst the anxious rehearsal of speeches and performances, a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere penetrated the halls of the small college. This would prove to be short lived, however. As the events got under way, many participants became tense. However, junior Leah Rogers was oblivious from such tension. “The rounds were fun,” she said. “I was more nervous waiting for the results.”

Breaking a three-year stretch in which Wauwatosa West has gone without a state champion, Rogers won top honors during her efforts Saturday. She placed first in her event, Group Discussion, beating a field of four groups of seven to eight competitors.

Noting Rogers’ demeanor compared to other victors, fellow junior Caylin Rosene remarked, “I think she was the only one who wasn’t sobbing violently.”

Group Discussion is an event comprised of seven to eight individuals competing in five rounds in front of a judge. Discussions in each round are centered on five predetermined questions. Among the issues that the competitors were asked to address were improper Medicaid payments, decreasing adoption rates, and the disparity of wealth in America. Often competitors thoroughly research the questions before performing.

“You can’t be aggressive and talk over everyone, but you have to be a leader,” Rogers said. “Some people are too aggressive and they talk over others. They’re supposed to get marked down for that, but sometimes they don’t.”

Members are judged on their ability to work together to debate and form solutions to the hot-button topics they are given. This can lead to an interesting experiment in group dynamics, and it is one’s style and skill of participation in the group that ultimately factors into the judges’ scoring.

Participants advanced in a tournament-style system with the first three rounds composed of four groups, the third round semi-finals composed of the best of the first three rounds in two groups, and the final round composed of the best from the semi-finals. Rogers successfully progressed through all five rounds on her trip to first. Judges commented on her leadership ability, patience, and consideration of other member’s suggestions in the deliberation process.

Rogers was not certain that she would win, especially since she has competed only once prior to her state performance. “I was pretty surprised, because I didn’t prepare,” she said. “I researched a little bit the night before, so I had some facts, but that was it.” Her mother, Susan Rogers, was more confident that she would win, saying sarcastically, “If I knew she was a state champ in something, it would be arguing.”

Despite her achievement, Leah Rogers will not be continuing to the national level, as Group Discussion is an event held strictly in the state level. “It’s sad,” Rogers remarked, “because I won’t have the chance to compete on a national level where it’s more challenging.”

Regardless, Rogers has emerged from her experience with many lessons learned on leadership and working with groups. When asked about the secret to her success, she confidently stated that it was, “Acting as if you know what you’re saying.”