Commitment. Consistency.  Confidence.

March 11, 2021


When the Central Warriors gathered on March 6, 2020 to compete in the VHSL Super Region 2CD Tournament, Coach Jan Thompson and her team looked to build on the strength of their Regional Championship.  A dozen of Central High’s best and most talented students had earned the right to compete on Saturday with hard work, focus and determination. Coach Thompson knew her team was prepared, but so were their competitors from the other schools.   

Some may ask, “Just how exciting can Forensics be?   After all, isn’t it just a bunch of public speaking?” Humorous Duo competitors Jaylan Bowman and Jessica Cooke might have something to say about that. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and all the necessary changes in school activity schedules, there were bound to be potential conflicts.  As it turns out, Jaylan Bowman is an accomplished swimmer who was scheduled to compete in the VHSL Class 2 Swim and Dive Championships in Christiansburg. That event however had been postponed until Saturday March 6, which put Bowman in a difficult predicament.   While it would have been easy to have chosen one event or the other, Bowman knew that he had a good shot in each competition. Furthermore, he was unwilling to let down his partner after their weeks of rehearsals together.   

The decision was made.   The duo of Bowman and Cooke would do whatever it took to enable Bowman to compete in both events.   This meant that Cooke would travel to Christiansburg with Bowman so that he would be able to compete in both events simultaneously.  A plan was in place, but timing was key.  There are three separate rounds of competition for each category where the students compete in front of different judges.   “The first round went smoothly,” Cooke explained, even though they were pretty much on their own due to Covid-19 restrictions in place.   But with less than ten minutes to go before the second round, they realized that the wifi in the aquatic center wasn’t working for them.    This could have cost them everything.   “I was stressed out,” Bowman said, needing to warm up for the swim meet as well as get logged on for the virtual competition.   As the clock drew nearer to competition time, and with only seconds to spare, technical issues threatened to doom their chances.   Just in the nick of time, they were able to correct the problem with their wifi and complete the second round.    

But then more connection issues plagued the virtual competition, this time from another school.   This forced the third round to be delayed, again putting their chances in jeopardy.  Uncertainty looming, Bowman was able to swim in the 100 breast.  “I ended up placing sixth in my heat and I’m now sitting at tenth in the State,” Bowman explained.    

Hoping to carry his success from the pool to the competition room, he was able to return in time to complete his third round with Cooke.  Relieved that they were able to compete in all three rounds, the committed duo was able to join the rest of their team virtually by Facetime when results were announced at the end of the day.  It was then that Bowman and Cooke learned that they had finished second in the competition and would be advancing to the State final round.

As it turns out, they weren’t alone. All competitors from Central placed and will advance to the State Finals, with top three finishes and one alternate.

Individual rankings were as follows:

Extemporaneous Speaking:

1st place - Ashar Kahn

Humorous Duo:

2nd place - Jaylan Bowman and Jessica Cooke

Humorous Interpretation:

2nd place - Maria Boggs


1st place - Zoey Barker

Original Oratory:

2nd place - Izah Qureshi



4th place - Emily Hall


3rd place - Alex Vincer

Serious Dramatic Interpretation:

2nd place - Lauren White

Serious Duo:

1st Place - Emma Stallard and Draak Sutphin


3rd place - LilliAnna Dotson

On the strength of these performances, Central High School is State Bound and will again compete for the VHSL Class 2 State Championship in 2021.

Senior Emma Stallard, who competes with her partner Draak Sutphin in Serious Duo had this to say: “I’m very excited. It’s a big deal for the team.   This is the first time that I have ever won a Super Regions competition and I’m very excited to have this opportunity my Senior year.”

“I hope you are as happy as I am about our team!” Coach Thompson shared afterwards with her students.   “I am so proud to be your coach.”

The State Championship will be held on Saturday March 27.

Provided by Brandon White