By Keegan Ferraro
The City College speech and debate team ended its season on a high note, winning gold at the Phi Rho Pi National Championship held in Greenwich, Connecticut, improving on the bronze and silver medals the team acquired in March’s state championship.
Kyle Johnson, 42, and Kameron Burroughs, 19, placed first in the dramatic duo event, topping 59 other teams with their performance of an excerpt from Stephen Aldy Guiris’ play, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”
Johnson and Burroughs also won individual bronze medals in the prose event, with Johnson acquiring one more bronze medal in the dramatic interpretation event.
The gold medal was particularly rewarding for Johnson, a returning student who has been battling colon cancer since last fall. Johnson, who finished with a bronze medal in the 2010 Phi Rho Pi National Championship, thirsted to achieve more at this year’s nationals.
“After competing in nationals last year I knew I wanted to be able to come back this year and win,” Johnson said.
Johnson had his colon removed last September, but the cancer did not leave his body, forcing him to undergo chemotherapy sessions that continue to this day.
“The team really rallied around me and kept my spirits up,” Johnson said. “It helps knowing that there’s something to work toward to keep me going.”
Throughout the semester, Johnson has tried to schedule his bi-weekly chemotherapy sessions around his competitive weeks so that he could continue to compete.
“He comes to each coaching session having practiced rigorously and brings creative ideas that make the performance his own,” speech and debate team assistant director
Nathan Feingresh-Steele said. “He spends about five to six hours on speech preparation during a regular week and at least double that on a performance week.”
Aside from competing on the speech and debate team, Johnson is working to attain his AA in Psychology.
The Rams’ speech and debate team won a total of six medals, including a bronze in interpretation sweepstakes, and a bronze in overall sweepstakes, placing them in the top 20 nationally.
Aside from competing in the Phi Rho Pi National Championship, which took place April 11-16, the Rams’ speech and debate team won four total medals in the state championship held March 16-20 in Woodland Hills, California.
“The state championship in California has very tough competition; there are 32 of the best city college teams in California that attend,” Speech Division Coordinator Kristina Whalen said.
Burroughs placed the highest of the team, winning a silver medal for programmed interpretation of literature. Johnson went on to win the bronze for prose interpretation and for parliamentary debate, accompanied by his partner, Lisa Russell.
The City College speech and debate team urges any students interested in forensics to join the team.