Two young men step up to their lecterns -- their suit jackets look sharp and their bow ties match. Two best friends have reached the end of the road, and only one can proceed to the next debate.
Tacorian Tilley and Triston Ferguson are orating, pontificating and expounding their way to a national spotlight this summer.
The two John Tyler High School speech and debate students have blazed a trail across the state, taking top honors at competition after competition. Their diligence has led them on a path to take a shot at national championships this summer.
The young men will compete at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama from June 18 to 23.
Over the past two years, the best friends have pushed each other to reach for new heights in their academic success.
“We’re like brothers; we have the same taste in everything,” Triston said. “We’ve grown really close.”
Tacorian and Triston made a vow to get to nationals together this year.
“We thought we’d qualify together, but that wasn’t in the cards,” Tacorian said.
Although they didn’t qualify as a team, the young men did manage to make it all the way in different categories.
They said the worst moment of the season came when they were pitted against each other in a competition.
“They hated it,” speech and debate teacher April Caldwell said. “They didn’t hold back. Even though they’re friends, the competition was fierce.”
“It was the worst round of my life; it ate me alive,” Triston said.
Even though they were up against each other, they made a point of showing they were a team by dressing alike for that round.
Caldwell said that the skills that make Triston and Tacorian a particularly effective team are the same ones that make competition between the two so fierce.
“Triston has that outgoing personality and eloquent speech,” she said. “Tacorian is your deep think. When he says something it’s warranted.”
They spend dozens of hours each month preparing for their meets, while both holding full time jobs.
“I had to find a new normal, but I’m so glad I did,” Triston said. “God wouldn’t give me something I couldn’t handle.”
Tacorian agreed that time management has been an essential skill they’ve developed.
Triston plans to go into politics after attending Hillsdale College in Michigan. He will major in political science and minor in communications.
Triston also will be attending the National Sons of The American Revolution oration contest in July.
Meanwhile Tacorian will be majoring in communications and minoring in political science at the University of North Texas.
“It’s great that schools in Tyler can be known for more than just sports,” Triston said.
Tacorian also had some advice to offer students who would like to find their own place on the debate team.
“Put your all into it,” Tacorian said. “Don’t be afraid.”
Twitter: @ TMT_Cory