Coming off of their 26th season as a team, the Wauseon High School Speech & Debate Team is very familiar with bringing home the gold, boasting hundreds of state qualifiers and dozens of national qualifiers. However, the now concluded 2016-2017 season has indicated success in a few different areas.
Although starting off a little slow with not as many fresh speakers as they hoped and returning speakers finishing up a few prior commitments, a handful of speakers woke up at the crack of dawn each week to compete as usual on Saturday mornings at the likes of Maumee, Whitmer, and Upper Arlington.
Soon, the team found themselves with 27 members competing at 11 regular season tournaments accross Ohio.
Early success was evident with junior Paige Moden becoming the first on the team to place high enough to earn four bids and automatically qualify to the State Finals. Sophomore Alex Guerro would soon follow in Program Oral Interpretation (POI).
Besides those who “bid out,” 10 more individuals would qualify to the Ohio High School Speech League State Championship, hosted by the Berea-Midpark and Olmstead Falls schools. Those were the teams of Colton Blanton and Christian Cantu, and Sarah Becker and Julie Kahrs in Duo Interpretation, Olivia Ladd in Humorus Interpretation, Cory Johnson in United States Extemporaneous Speaking, and Hunter Mattin and Sophia Stockham in Student Congress. In addition, Anias Thompson and Maggie Carder were first alternates in POI and Dramatic, respectivley.
Although seeing moderate success at state with many speakers breaking, none quite broke through to the final round. However, they had already made up for it at the Western Ohio, National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) District Tournament, qualifying five individuals to the national tournament in the teams of Blanton and Cantu and Becker and Kahrs, as well as Olivia Ladd. These five will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to compete at the NSDA National Tournament in June.
In addition, the team made history as the 13 students competing won the Speech Sweepstakes, beating out a dozen other schools to bring home the first district championship in team history.
Head Coach Dolores Muller, in her 19th year coaching at WHS, has seen many successes this season, in and out of rounds.
“This has been quite a successful season for us. We had the usual number of State Qualifiers which is right around a dozen, with many speakers having his or her own victories along the way. That is why I like coaching speech- for those individual victories as well as the success of the team,” she said.
Other areas of success include Hunter Mattin winning the team’s Most Improved Award, showing through hard work and dedication a great increase in his poise, confidence, and general speaking abilities, and Maggie Carder being awarded the Spirit of Speech Award, emboding the spirit of the activity through a consistently enthusiastic, encouraging, and supportive attitude and approach.
Other success include Sophia Stockham winning the team’s Coach’s Award for excelling in forensics through high scores, improvement, and attendance, but also making the activity enjoyable for the team members and Sarah Becker and Julie Kahrs being awarded Speaker of the Year.
Plans are already shaping up for the next season as Muller, assistant coach Jason Robinson and team captains Cory Johnson, Liv Ladd, Paige Moden, and Sophia Stockham prepare for next year
“While we have enjoyed a good deal of popularity and success in the interpretive categories, we need to reload what we call our ‘pure speaking categories’ that require skilled writers along with our limited prep events of International and Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking which require participants to have a passion for world and US current events,” Muller said.
Whatever the team accomplishes looking ahead, whether it’s qualifying even more speakers to nationals or overcoming the crippling stage fright of a first year speaker, they are sure to make people listen- an indicator of success in itself.
Reach Cory Johnson at [email protected]