COVID-19 Ends Academic Competition Seasons

Many members of the Speech and Debate team have signed a petition asking the California High School Speech Association to postpone the state tournament rather than cancel it.

COVID-19 canceled a lot of things: March Madness, Coachella, Broadway. As the situation progressed, school, performing arts, and sports seasons were all canceled for students soon after. However, Speech and Debate, Model United Nations, Academic League, Science Olympiad, and History Bowl have all had parts or all of their seasons canceled leaving students on those teams disappointed.

Speech and Debate’s state tournament was canceled by the California High School Speech Association (CHSSA). This was upsetting for the entire team, especially the qualifiers: Timmy Kelly (‘20), Tommy Sottosanti (‘20), Quinn Rodriguez (‘20), Jeffrey Wang (‘21), Kyle Berlage (‘22), Whitney Hejminowski (‘21), Schuyler Capita (‘21), Elena LeTourneau (‘22), Dennis Li (‘20), Tobey Shim (‘20), Iraj Moradi (‘20), and Andrew Bender (‘20). 

Iraj, who qualified in Congressional debate expressed his disappointment by saying “I’ve never been to state but I qualified this year and I am a senior. The one chance I have at going is gone, which ultimately makes me feel kinda sad. I would at least like a response from CHSSA about a consideration to postpone the tournament instead of canceling it altogether.” Although he agreed that public health should be a priority, he still believes that “the current coronavirus outbreak isn’t enough to cancel all events and refuse to postpone them.” Looking at possible solutions, he pointed out that “Summer is when you see viral outbreaks lessen, so that would be a time in which this tournament could still continue, or at least on a preliminary basis.” 

The idea that COVID-19 will be less severe by summer has been backed up by research. According to an article by Forbes, there is hope that SARS-CoV-2 could join a group of respiratory viruses known as “winter viruses,” such as the flu. The transmission of winter viruses generally decreases during summer due to the heat and humidity of summer. The dry air of winter damages the respiratory tract, and given that COVID-19 targets the lungs, the virus could have less effect during the summer. However, postponing the tournament until summer would pose its own unique set of challenges such as the fact that students have their own obligations during summer. 

However, the idea of postponing the tournament is still a popular one, and students on the Speech and Debate team have been circulating around a petition on to CHSSA asking them to postpone the tournament instead of canceling it. The petition currently has 760 signatures from students from Bishop’s and other schools in California. The internal scrimmage for Bishop’s—known as the Bishop’s Spring Classic—has also been canceled because head coach and history teacher Mr. Matthew Valji’s has been planning on not returning to school and conducting a tournament via Zoom would pose a lot of difficulties. 

Next, the Model United Nations (MUN) team lost the opportunity to attend the Triton XXI Conference scheduled for April 18 and 19. The MUN team attended the Triton XX Conference in the fall and hosted a conference of their own, the Knights MUN Conference in December, but not being able to go to Triton XXI MUN was still a disappointment. Students such as Iraj and Ellie Hodges (‘22) were also planning on independently attending the University of Southern California MUN conference. “I feel pretty upset because we had already made all of our travel plans,” Ellie said. “Also, because mainly seniors were going, it was my last chance to hang out with them at a conference. All in all, it feels like a really great opportunity was taken at a second’s notice, but it feels like most events are like that right now. I understand why it is necessary, but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting.”

PC: Kasie Leung (’23)
From Left to Right: Eric Zhang (’20), Tobey Shim (’20), Matthew Ai (’20), Yasha Kharrati (’20), Michelle Fan (’20), Sabrina Fogel (’20), Annika Feng (’21) and Miles McInerney (’20) gathered in the cafeteria before the Varsity Academic League match.

The Academic League team had made it through most of their season, but playoffs for the Varsity team have also been canceled or postponed. The Bishop’s Academic League teams play in a round-robin style tournament against seven other schools in San Diego. Before schools were shut down, the Varsity team was at 6-0 (six wins and zero losses), the Junior Varsity team was at 5-1, and the Novice team was at 6-0. Given that there was one last match against La Jolla High School and they were undefeated, the Varsity team stood a good chance of making it to the playoffs. Unfortunately, that can’t happen now. 

Varsity Captain Tobey Shim (‘20) commented “For me, it was my last season. La Jolla High is our biggest Academic League rival so it’s the biggest game of the year. Also for Varsity – we were serious contenders to win the county this year. Last year we came in second but we were stronger than ever this year – so this was ‘the year’ so to speak.” Other team members were similarly disappointed. “I was upset that we didn’t get a culminating night,” said Junior Varsity member Annika Feng (‘21). “The seniors got their Senior Night but there’s usually a good crowd for La Jolla for all of the levels.”

However, while many teams had fulfilling seasons and were able to compete in prior matches, conferences and tournaments, two teams, History Bowl and Science Olympiad were never able to compete. The History Bowl team began meeting in January, and had been meeting every G day since then. Although their national qualifier had not been scheduled,  they were looking forward to making nationals for the fourth year in a row. Tobey, who is also one of the captains of History Bowl explained, “This was the first year we’ve had a significant number of people outside the Class of 2020 and was kind of our opportunity to pass the torch on and keep it going.”

The other team that never got to compete this year was the Science Olympiad team. They were looking forward to Science Olympiad Regionals, which were scheduled for March 21, but were canceled. This was a disappointment for students because they had spent the whole year preparing for the competitions but were now not able to compete this year. Senior Sabrina Fogel, who coached the Boomilever event and would be a participant in the Forensics event said that “There’s a general sense of disappointment, but I think it’s for the best.”