Vail Valley teens speak spectacularly |

Vail Valley teens speak spectacularly

Lauren Glendenning
Eagle-Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyNicole Frye, right, and Sage Buchalter, left, both seniors and team captains for the speech team, perform a duet-acting humor piece Wednesday during practice at Battle Mountain high School in Eagle-Vail, Colorado.

EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” When you hear the words “speech team,” the sight of students dressed in khaki pants and blazers standing behind podiums might flash before your eyes.

The Battle Mountain High School speech team, however, couldn’t be farther from that scene.

The students take their speeches seriously, but these aren’t ordinary speeches. Some speeches are done in pairs, acted out like scenes in a play. Others are done solo, with the performer posing as several characters and taking on the persona of each one.

That’s what Fiona Jeppson’s specialty is ” the performance part of speech. Her animation and focus has viewers captivated by her every move and every word. She’s a natural at it, and she keeps things different by performing speeches that differ from those of her competitors, she said.

“I find it fun and interesting to get into character and take on their mannerisms,” said Jeppson, a senior. “You’re trying to become this person.”

The speech team competes around the state and has been winning big lately, with its sights set on the state competition next weekend. Jeppson has won second and third place with the current act she’s doing. It’s different, she said, because it’s not the typical drama scene where there’s rape, murder or suicide ” common themes from her competitors.

“This one is just about a psychotic man,” she said.

The categories for the speeches vary. While Jeppson does a drama interpretive speech, her teammates were working on something else at Suzanne Foster’s weekly practice at the high school Wednesday.

Foster, an English teacher, has been the leader and coach of the school’s speech team for nearly 22 years. She loves seeing her students succeed, and is proud to say there are about 30 consistent competitors on this year’s team.

When she started the team she had about six members.

The team is an extracurricular activity, but it’s treated a lot like sports because it’s competitive. Students are subject to random drug tests, and they must keep their grades up.

Foster is hoping to get a competitive speech class into the curriculum by the start of the next school year.

The team has been winning medals at competitions since about October. Foster already has 21 definite competitors going to the state competition next weekend in Denver.

Each student has a different specialty. For Adam Borne, a senior, it’s debate.

“It’s hereditary,” he said. “Both of my parents are lawyers; it’s kind of a necessity. My household is like a debate foreground.”

Borne doesn’t want to be a lawyer, but for now he likes to argue like one. He’s been debating for the speech team since his freshman year, and said he really enjoys it. The experience has helped his confidence in public speaking, and he’s learning other lessons along the way, too, he said.

In debate, competitors have to think on their feet. Some of the other competitive speech categories allow for time to practice and perfect, but debaters have to come up with speeches on the fly. It’s not always easy, and sometimes the subjects are things they might not know much about, Borne said.

When that happens, Borne falls back on his ability to be confident in his speech and stand tall. He might not win, but he can get through it, he said.

For the teams and duets, performance, not arguing, takes center stage.

The duet humor category can bring to life almost any subject. Sage Buchalter and Nicole Frye, both seniors, make a conversation between a human and penguin seem realistic, and they make it witty and funny. They’ve been working on the skit for a couple of months and hope it’s received well by judges at states next week.

Both girls say the experience from the speech team has helped them on their college applications and with experience in general. It’s something they’ve put time into throughout their high school years, and they’re already seeing the payoff. Both girls have been accepted into college and feel confident about the skills they’ll take with them.

For Foster, she’s excited to have a group of students each year who do so well, and she’s particularly proud of this year’s team. The first, second and third place awards have been rolling in, and most importantly, the students are all having a good time in the process.

“We have a very eclectic group of kids,” she said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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