Talking the talk: Speech team sends three acts to sectionals

STANFORD — Audrey Boateng and Zoe Hovde tried out for Mahomet-Seymour's first speech team in more than 10 years on a whim, but their third-place performance at Olympia High School advancing them to Saturday's sectionals had them looking like pros.

"Since I'm really interested in acting and I'm in drama club, I was like 'I might as well (join),'" Boateng said. "'It would be a good opportunity to work on my acting.'"

Their emotion-riddled dramatic duet about a mother and daughter coping with life after divorce won the heart of the judges.

"We wanted to do something really serious, something that a lot of people could relate to," Hovde said.

But the two aren't the only ones advancing to sectionals Saturday at Glenwood High School in Chatham. Averhy Sanborn earned first place in regional action for her oratorical declamation about identity theft. Tadeo Ruiz will also head to sectionals after a fourth-place finish in an original oratory convincing the audience video games are a work of art.

"A couple of the events the students wrote the pieces themselves," coach Allyson Sanborn said of Ruiz's speech. "Students brainstormed ideas and they did the research. They did the creating and created the speech themselves and we worked together to refine it and turn it into a smooth eight-minute presentation."

As if drafting one original work wasn't enough, Ruiz also volunteered to write a special occasion speech just days before the regional after the student who originally intended to fill the spot couldn't make it. Ruiz's speech was written as if to persuade an Illinois senator to ban video game gambling.

"He wrote his speech and got it memorized and made it within a week and a half," Sanborn said. "He made it to the final round and got fifth place, so I felt like that was going above and beyond for sure."

Seven students delivered eight speeches in the regional. Saturday's regional also included Hovde's poetry reading (sixth place), Joshua Park and Kiana Bailey's humorous duet acting (sixth) and Penny Sheridan's prose reading (sixth). The team took fifth out of 12 schools.

But such an experience was priceless for the young team, especially for Kiana Bailey, who joined the speech team at her father's suggestion.

"My dad really wanted me to do speech. I was like, 'Eh, maybe,'" and then one day after drama practice he was like, 'Hey, you should join speech team,' and I'm like, 'Sure, whatever. I've got an hour to wait. Let's do it,'" Bailey joked. "It was a good idea. I've enjoyed it."

Bailey's duet partner, Joshua Park, was thrilled to join at the recommendation of fellow Christmas play actor and speech team member Averhy Sanborn.

"It's amazing!" Park said. "I love it! It's so fun," he added. "Everybody has a great time and everybody is really nice."

His favorite part?

"Breaking out of character," Park said while laughing. "You just can't hold it in and (you're) trying to get ahold of it and you can't. It's one of the funniest moments when you see someone trying to get back into it."

The 12-member team started its efforts in November. Coach Sanborn, having been on a speech team herself in the Chicago suburbs, decided to reintroduce the concept at freshman orientation.

"I think it's a great way for kids to become better speakers," she said.

With three students heading to sectionals, she's "thrilled" at the opportunity.

"The students are really just positive and encouraging to one another," Sanborn said. "They have fun and they are excited when everyone does well."

But perhaps what's often overlooked is just how much this group puts in the work."They do daylong competitions on Saturdays through the winter," Sanborn said. "When we go to a competition, the students will do performances at least twice, possibly a third time, if they make it on to the third round."Not only are students competing and competing often, they're also up against large numbers, including their first competition in December at Olympia High School, where more than 300 students participated.Each of the competitions has several rounds with breaks in between. But instead of taking it easy, her crew is often supporting fellow Bulldogs, Sanborn said."Our students always choose to watch other students," she said. "They encourage them and that's really nice to see."

Even though the season is winding down, individuals such as Hovde see the team's efforts paying off well into the future.

"It definitely helps me future-wise with jobs and really presenting myself as a confident person who can speak really well and have a good tone and can really just have people see the real me," she said.

The confidence boost is exactly why Sanborn wanted to reinvigorate M-S' speech team.

"I think it gives them a leg up in everything that they do in the future," she said.

And as for sending three acts into sectionals her first year at the helm?

"The students were thrilled and so am I," Sanborn said.

Location (2):Central Illinois, State

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