Eagle Valley High School speech stars soar at state tournament
Eagle Valley High School wins five state titles in State Speech Festival
Eagle Valley High School’s speech and debate team applied some serious semantic smackdown at last month’s state tournament in Greeley. The Devils finished with six state champions spread over five events.
Eagle Valley’s previous best was two state titles, coach Katie Uhnavy said.
What speech teaches you
For Eagle Valley, speech season starts in September and ends with the state meet during the last weekend of January — unless you’re taking a shot at the national qualifiers, which take place in March. If you make it to nationals, you keep practicing through June.
Along the way, students learn all the good stuff you want people to learn from any activity … that talent is helpful, but talent without work is wasted.
“It teaches resilience,” said Saroja Manickam, who won a state title in the original oratory competition. “You consistently see people better than you, so you’re failing and improving.”
Herry Garcia won his second state championship. This year it was in the duo interpretation title with Ella Srholez.
“You’re never the best,” Garcia said, who has two state titles. “You’re always trying to improve, to set high goals. You keep going and going, climbing that ladder.”
“You can do well, but you can always do better,” Srholez said.
Srholez says she’s not an extrovert by nature. Speech and debate in general, and competing for state titles in particular, forces her to stand and deliver with confidence and perseverance, she said.
Riley Dudley won his state title in impromptu speaking. He says his communication skills are better, and he is learning to think more quickly.
“I am not trying to impress judges. It has to be personal to you,” he said.
Esther San Diego is a state champion in the category of program oral interpretation.
Eagle Valley team captain Jake Papadopoulos finished third in the value debate competition at state, all while trying to keep a handle on this crew. He said he’ll take a shot in next month’s national qualifiers.
Uhnavy had her own ups and downs this season. She had a baby during the season, so assistant coach Dan Dussault stepped up.
And the winner is …
The state meet starts with three guaranteed rounds, each before a single judge. Then you wait. If you impressed that judge sufficiently, your name appears on a sheet of paper that’s posted on the cafeteria wall, and you advance to the semifinals. If not, you go home.
All that happens again between the semifinals and finals. For the final round you face a roomful of people and three judges.
When you finish, you wait some more while the judges tabulate everything.
“It’s a lot of stress and anxiety,” Ian Forrester said, who won his state title in creative storytelling.
Finally, late Saturday evening the six finalists in each event are summoned to the stage where the winners are announced: Third, then second, then the cheering starts when state champion’s school is announced. It gets really loud real fast. The winners’ names follow the school name, but they generally don’t hear their names announced, partly because they’re cheering too.
The other three finalists on stage are left to smile politely and applaud, sort of like Academy Awards losers with a TV camera in their faces.
About the state champions
Dudley, who won for impromptu speaking, said competitors draw three prompts, usually random words or phrases and a quote. Something like “Regret,” “Climate Change,” “Yes, and …” or “Drivers Ed.” They’re sent out of the room for a few minutes to come up with something original and engaging.
Forrester’s creative storytelling is also impromptu. His prompts are characters such as poison dart frogs, bumblebees, male sea horses and waiters. Those characters get a problem and Forrester has to create a story with a solution. For example, Forrester’s bumblebee was allergic to pollen. The judge has to like it well enough to advance him to the next round. Prompts and stories are never the same.
“It’s fun!” Forrester said.
Srholez’ and Garcia’s duo interpretation tends toward the serious. Sure, there are comedic entries, but they’re not state champions, at least not this year. Garcia, who really is a delightful young man, won a state title last year with his solo interpretation of a psychopath.
“The best pieces bring some light to something,” Garcia said.
Srholez and Garcia won this year’s duo interpretation state title with a piece about domestic violence, adapted from the book “Perfect Stranger.”
“It leaves you with the expectation that she’ll get out of that situation,” Srholez said.
Manickam says her original oratory is a little like a TED Talk about media representation of minorities. Manickam’s family is from India.
“Representation from India is either not there or it’s stereotypical, which causes problems,” she said.
Manickam is precise in her presentation. The time limit is 10 minutes. She finishes in 9:44.
“Speech and debate provide students with tremendous skill, poise, and confidence as communicators,” Superintendent Philip Qualman said.