Speech team qualifies 4 for sectionals


Yearbook photo

Cassady Cundari, Editor-in-Chief

Most students dread presenting in front of their classes, and that fear doesn’t disappear once you graduate. In fact, psychologists assert that Americans fear public speaking more than they fear death itself.

There’s a group of people at MCHS, however, who confront this fear worse than death every winter. And they do it for fun.

Minooka’s speech team is full of some of the most hardworking and supportive speech competitors in Illinois. Nine entries advanced to regionals in the state series, four of which made it as far as the sectional tournament on Feb. 9. These individuals were junior Lisa Breen in radio speaking, seniors Aleena Warner and McKenna Ferry in dramatic duet acting, senior Taylor Brown in informative speaking, and junior Jackie Marquez in prose reading.

“We had an absolutely amazing season this year as a team, which is super encouraging as we lost a lot of varsity members last year after graduation,” said Brown.

Coming off a successful season last year where two senior members, Amelia Brewers and Angela Svehla even advanced to state in Dramatic Duet Acting, the speech team had to compensate for a loss of several talented upperclassmen. Most of their key members last year were seniors, so when they left, that opened up a lot of room for novice members to join.

“While I was originally really nervous about so many younger members being on the team, the novices this year absolutely rocked and totally impressed both our coaches and the veteran competitors alike,” said Emily Blenck, senior captain.

Despite their inexperience, these younger competitors helped put MCHS on the board at every single competition this season, notably their fourth-place finish at the Morris Community High School Invitational and the Irish Invitational at Seneca High School in December. In January, they took fifth-place at the annual SPC Conference tournament at Oswego High School and third at the Yorkville Fighting Foxes speech tournament.

“This has been a growing year for us,” said Ms. Amy Tate, head coach. “More than half the team is comprised of underclassmen. That being said, our new members have a lot of talent. Over the next year, I expect to see them truly flourish in their individual events. We also have several talented upperclassmen who I am confident will go far next season. They are all hard-working, dedicated, and motivated to win, which is the best recipe for success that a coaching staff could hope for.”

This season was also the first full season the speech team had three coaches, adding Ms. Erika Downey to Ms. Olivia Gerk ’s and Tate’s staff.

“I felt incredibly excited to be joining such an amazing team,” Downey said in a promo video that the Minooka Speech team posted on Twitter in March of last year.

This addition not only helped balanced their member to coach ratio, but it also added another dynamic perspective and element of expertise in preparing the team members for competition.

This season Gerk initiated a second Lewis University Workshop where the team members worked on their competition and received feedback from representatives. In years past, she has consistently arranged for Lewis University Theater Director Jo Slowik and a few of her collegiate-level theater majors to conduct a November workshop with the team. Gerk arranged for the Lewis University reps to return in January and provide coaching for the team with their pieces fully memorized and competition ready for the first time in this developmental season. It is a successful tradition they plan to continue in the years to come.

“(Speech) really pushes you to become a better performer beyond what you thought your capabilities were,” said Brown. “The hard work truly pays off. There seriously is no greater feeling than getting to the conclusion of your speech without any stumbles or mess-ups. It brings a whole different energy to you and makes your love what you do even more.”

This year’s regional and sectional was different than in years’ past, team members claiming it was “50 times harder” than the previous one.

“I love speech because it always keeps you working,” said Brown. “After every competition, you get your comments back from judges and you have to think to yourself, ‘Okay, what now?’ Even though I was placing well at competitions, I was still working every week to try to make my poetry and informative better.”

Despite the cutthroat IHSA competitions, Brown and four other members qualified to the sectional level, Brown breaking finals and ranking in the top 6, which was her goal for the season.

“I’m so proud of how far our team has come and how much we have all grown this season,” said Brown. “We have a lot of underclassmen that are rising up, so make sure to keep your eyes on this team.”

Trophy or not, the speech team is a blossoming program at MCHS and a safe haven for students of various levels to take some risks and crush the competition—or in speech jargon: eat bones.

“I believe that I am very much involved within an abundance of the activities that MCHS has to offer,” said Blenck. “With that being said, there is no organization within this school that I have felt as connected to as speech. Speech gave me the opportunity to indulge within my love for performing and help others find their own voices and confidence within their words.”