The Salem Spartans once again proved that no one in the state can talk the talk like they can.
This past Saturday, the Spartans won their 16th straight Virginia High School League team State Title with a convincing 35-14 victory over second place Handley High School.
“Although we had a lot of young talent this year, watching the members grow into confident performers with both humor and purpose and seeing them fight alongside some of our strongest veterans, is one of the most rewarding things a team, as a whole, can experience,” says Team Captain Nash Lakin. “As a captain, it is an honor to compete at the championship level, but it is an even greater honor to compete alongside teammates that I have come to know and love.”
After going virtual last year, the competition was held at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian on Saturday. The victory not only kept Salem’s current streak alive but, more importantly, it set a new VHSL mark for consecutive Forensics titles. The previous record was set by Blacksburg High School from 1989-2003.
“Coach Pam Carter and I witnessed Blacksburg complete their 15-year run in 2003 and never imagined we would have a comparable streak,” says Head Coach Mark Ingerson. “I think the key has always been focusing on the competitor in front of you right now, the practice happening currently, the round you are competing in at the moment. Don’t think about the big picture, just think about getting better now.”
Salem was led by five individual event champions and the Spartans swept the top two places in both Humorous interpretation and Serious Duo, scoring 16 of the team's 35 points in those two events alone. Individual event winners included Senior Captain Julia Vaughan in Dramatic Interpretation.
“After my years on the team, I feel that I’ve learned and grown so much, but not only have I seen growth in myself but also in my teammates,” says Vaughan. “It’s been wonderful getting to see so much talent, old and new. I’m so proud of everyone’s hard work and dedication, making my last year unforgettable.”
Salem also picked up key wins from Nash Lakin and his brother Kade Lakin in Serious Duo. Senior Graham Roudebush won in Humorous Interpretation, Juniors Taylor Berenbaum and Ben Hathaway were victorious in Humorous Duo, and freshman Connor Smythers took home the top prize in Children's Storytelling. It was a second individual title for Nash Lakin, Roudebush and Berenbaum, who each won individual championships last year.
“When one member wins, he or she is representing the dedication of everyone else on the team,” says State Champ Hathaway. “That commitment to helping each other has persisted for its sixteenth year despite a global pandemic completely changing the game. Salem Forensics is not just a team, it is a family.”
Salem’s championship drive also was aided by junior Ryan Long, who was the runner-up in Original Oratory. Sophomore Ruby Spence picked up a second place finish in Humorous Interpretation, while sophomores Kyra Netting and Grasyn Mitchell were the runners-ups in Serious Duo. Junior Emma Snead also placed third in Impromptu Speaking.
Salem Forensics has now won 88 individual event titles since 2004 and another team victory in 2023 will allow the program to tie Christiansburg High School Wrestling for the longest streak of team titles in any VHSL-sanctioned championship.
“The attempt to instill the value of self-reflection and drive toward excellence in each student has always been the foundation of the program,” says Ingerson. “I’m so proud of this group overcoming pandemic restrictions and coming back to live competitions with sustained levels of success. The team’s commitment and joy continually motivates me for the future.”
Rounding out the championship team are members Lebron Parsell, Charlie Bain, Colton Easter and Zac Hathaway. Salem’s Forensics dynasty is managed by Mady Church this season.
“To earn our 16th consecutive victory and to create a legacy with this team makes me both proud and joyful to be a Spartan,” says Team Captain Lakin.