Gold-Diamond shines brightly in speech and debate
Sonoma Valley High School junior Delaney Gold-Diamond.
A forensics teammate called across the room to Sonoma Valley High School junior Delaney Gold-Diamond and asked for their password to get into the National Forensics League Website. Gold-Diamond giggled and yelled out “Nerd!”
Also known as speech and debate, forensics is both an academic elective course and competitive team at Sonoma Valley High. The team is coached by, Janet Hansen, who travels with her students to competitions at least once a month. Gold-Diamond chose forensics as her elective her first week at the high school and was the first sophomore ever to be named captain last year.
Forensics is commonly confused with mock trial, a completely different team, on which Gold-Diamond also competes. Sonoma Valley High is the only high school in Sonoma County to field a mock trial team. Mock trial students nationwide are given a new civil or criminal case to prepare each year. They divide into prosecution and defense teams and spend hours pouring over case materials. At competitions, Sonoma Valley High’s defense will argue against another Bay Area school’s prosecution and vice versa. A practicing lawyer serves as the judge and Sonoma Valley High is fortunate to have local attorney Valerie Walter serve as a coach and mentor. Mock trial meets during lunch and in the evenings throughout the year.
Gold-Diamond estimates that between the two teams, she dedicates 15 hours a week throughout the year. “These are my sports,” she says. “These are my teammates and the adrenaline rush I get from competing and winning is no different from that of my athlete friends.” To that end, the governing body of speech and debate is known in this circle as the “NFL” and the team refers to it fondly as, “the real NFL.”
Gold-Diamond is making a name for herself in speech and debate beyond the Bay Area. Last spring, she won the regional Lion’s Club speech competition, earning a scholarship of $4,500, and then won the district competition, winning an additional $6,500, defeating two seniors and a junior from major speech and debate teams in the Bay Area. She made it through six levels to get to the state competition. Lion Dave Carey, who attended each of the competitions with his wife, said it is the first time a Sonoma student has progressed this far. In June, Gold-Diamond competed in Sacramento as one of four finalists for the State championship and won an additional $10,000 scholarship. Her topic: “What the America of the Future can learn from the America of the Past.”
So what has Gold-Diamond done with her winnings? She is also an accomplished clarinet player and she used some of her prize money to travel around Austria and Czechoslovakia on a concert tour last summer with the Napa Junior Symphony, her first time to Europe.
Gold-Diamond is eager to continue to compete in speech, debate and mock trial in college and hopes to end up at a school on the East Coast. She has Harvard, Tufts University and Georgetown on her short list, with plans to major in political science. She would love to be a trial lawyer one day.
She is taking an ambitious course load as a junior, including AP U.S. history, AP English, pre-calculus, Spanish 3 and forensics, as well as AP psychology through Solo Quest. In her spare time, she loves to read historical fiction and she watches the evening news with her family to stay up to date on current events.
On any given day, Gold-Diamond is working on three different speeches for forensics and clutching the fat casebook for mock trial. Said Valerie Walter, “Delaney has an amazing combination of maturity and work ethic which has been an invaluable asset to the team. She can analyze constitutional issues as well as any law student.” Gold-Diamond offers words of praise right back to Walter. “Mrs. Walter has been an invaluable resource for the mock trial team,” she said, “and she strives hard to ensure that each of us improves over the course of the year.”
Added coach Hansen, “Delaney stands out among forensics and mock trial students, and right now I have some really good ones. She’s incisive, fearless, informed, analytical, and a very engaging speaker. She cares about the achievement of the team as a whole, and although she can be tough, the other kids know these are the same expectations she has for herself. In addition, she has that thing that can’t be taught – the will and drive to win and the determination to put in the work that it takes to win.”
To which Gold-Diamond responded, “Ms. Hansen is one of the most inspirational teachers I’ve ever had, and her constant motivation and encouragement is what makes me the strong speaker and debater that I am. When I joined her class as a freshman, I was so nervous to talk in front of the team. Now, I am the captain.”
The community is welcome to see Gold-Diamond and her classmates in action at the next forensics competition being hosted by Sonoma Valley High on Saturday, Nov. 10.