On March 2, Red Bank Regional High School senior Sarah Vates realized a long-term goal in winning the New Jersey State Tournament of Champions in a competitive forensic event. In a few weeks, she will travel by invitation of Governor Christie to the Governor’s mansion, Drumthwacket, to celebrate her achievement along with the 19 other New Jersey students who took first place in their respective forensic categories.
As Sarah explains, “Forensics is similar to acting, but more disciplined since there are many rules by which competitors must abide. It is also pure performance, without props, or costumes and depends solely on voices, gestures and facial expressions. It is much nuanced and can be different every time you perform a piece.”
The Holmdel resident — pictured holding two trophies; one each for herself and for her school — won the New Jersey state championship in prose interpretation. She chose her own material from a novel (The Paris Wife by Paula McClain) in which she synthesized the author’s words into a ten minute forensic performance. Sarah had recently qualified to compete in the state championship when she placed fourth in the University of Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell Classic national competition. Thirty contestants (who similarly qualified by placing in other high-level tournaments) competed in twenty categories using material chosen from other published sources.
Sarah, a Holmdel resident, chose to attend RBR for its Academy of Visual & Performing Arts. As a drama major, she has continued to nourish her passion for forensic performance. This honor represents the apex of Ms. Vates’ work, which she has been perfecting for the past six years when she was first smitten by forensic competition in middle school. She has competed in many tournaments since that time, consuming most weekends of her school years and working weeknights for hours leading up to each competition. Her mother, Molly, who has a history of forensic debate, has been a great inspiration for her daughter.
Sarah has traveled throughout the Northeast for regional and national tournaments, including George Mason University’s Patriot Games in Virginia and Wake Forest’s Early Bird Invitational in North Carolina. She has also attended forensic summer camps to improve her skills. Sarah placed in many of those tournaments and has achieved a high-career rank in the national forensic league in accumulated points for forensic competition. In addition to prose interpretation, she has competed in the categories of poetry, dramatic interpretation and humorous interpretations.
While forensics has consumed a good deal of this teenager’s life, she has managed to maintain a very active school career as an honor-roll student. She also gained entrance into the National, English and Spanish Honor Societies and is treasurer of the RBR History Club. She has also been a strong community volunteer and has served as chairperson of the local chapter of Cinderella’s Closet, which provides affordable prom clothes for teenagers who might not otherwise be able to partake in this iconic milestone. Particularly for her activities with Cinderella’s Closet, she was chosen by the RBR Guidance Department to receive the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Caring Award for her high school. She has also logged more than 350 hours at the Monmouth Medical Center Foundation Office in support of the Valerie Fund which raises money for pediatric cancer patients. The latter activity has most influenced her choice in a career path as she intends to major in Leadership Studies in college next year with the hope of operating her own charitable foundation some day.
Surprisingly, she will not be pursuing forensic competition at the university level stating, “That chapter of my life will be coming to a close and it is, therefore, so satisfying to be going out on top.”