Speech and Forensics Team continues to prepare for upcoming competitions

The Speech and Forensics Team and sponsor celebrate after placing first in their regional tournament on Jan. 16, at Madison High School.  20 of the team members qualified for the super regionals tournament.

Photo used with permission of Cherie Sherrier

The Speech and Forensics Team and sponsor celebrate after placing first in their regional tournament on Jan. 16, at Madison High School. 20 of the team members qualified for the super regionals tournament.

Advik Sood, Staff Writer

Competition season begins to start as students from all kinds of clubs prepare for the payoff of their hard work. The Speech and Forensics Team is no outlier, with this team of students working to come out victorious in tournaments and eventually place at the state competition– a feat they’ve accomplished for the past six years.

Forensics is broken down into 10 categories. Some of the categories, such as storytelling and solo acting, are performance-based. Others, like original oratory and prose interpretation, heavily focus on the linguistic and oral aspects of speech. In one category, extemporaneous, students can only gather data beforehand, because they’re given their topics only 15-30 minutes before the competition and have to come up with the speech in that time frame.

“Sometimes students will write and memorize their own speech on any topic, sometimes they’ll make speeches based on questions right before their competitions, and sometimes they get to add their own creative interpretation to pre-existing works,” club sponsor and English teacher Barbara Clougherty said. “Whatever the case, forensics allows students to express and manipulate language in their own way.” 

Forensics students come together to show off their abilities in annual tournaments that start in the weeks after the new year. If students perform well locally, then they proceed to the state, and sometimes even national levels. 

The team took part in a regionals tournament on Jan. 16 and placed first, with a final score of 66 points. The second-place team, contrastingly, earned only 14 points. Its victory of over 50 points, however, was not an anomaly for the team that has a track record for outdoing its competition, having won state championships in forensics every consecutive year since 2017. 

“What makes the CHS Forensics Team so superb is that we’ve got a group of dedicated and hardworking students who are willing to take the initiative to challenge themselves. Such spirit and passion, which we’ve always had, is not often found in many of our competitors,” Clougherty said. 

Its victory at the regionals tournament means that the CHS Forensics Team will be advancing to the super regionals tournament, with 20 out of its 21 members qualifying for the tournament which is scheduled on Feb. 15. The 11 members that came first in their respective categories include Camila Canelas Soto, Eva Jaber, Sam Massi, Hannah Moghaddar, McKenzy Hopkins, Nishmaya Gundapuneedi, Camille Dausch, Ren Lagasse, Jack Wolff, Sam Wolff, and Megan Rudacille. 

Behind all of the team’s success, however, lies hours of preparation and thought that go into the performances and speeches that forensics students present. Because forensics does not meet on a weekly basis, members who need to work on a speech must do so independently. 

“Because each category is so unique, working alone is the best way,” junior Bridget Dombro said. “I work on a Google Doc, where I can easily edit and revise my speech.”

In addition to the speech, team members who compete in performance categories also practice and develop non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and hand gestures. Humorous Duos is one of these categories, where competitors take a published script and humorously interpret it in 10 minutes. 

“My brother and I chose a musical called ‘Gutenberg the Musical’ for Humorous Duos, which took a while to prepare since so much of it is about the physical acting and action,” senior Jack Wolff said. “We spent a lot of time making sure that our movement was clear and strong, and cut the musical into different pieces so that we could focus on what specific expressions/gestures we wanted to do with each cut.”

If members ever need any assistance, they’re always able to turn to their sponsor for help, who will work around her schedule in order to meet with students one on one. 

“When I meet with them, I help with anything they need help with: writing structure, things to consider, questions– whatever it is, I’m there for them,” Clougherty said. 

Even after they finish writing their speeches, the work of many members is still not over, as most of them are required to memorize their performance beforehand. 

“Every night, my brother and I run through the piece one or two times in order to polish it for the tournament. We have to run over parts over and over again to make sure that piece looks coordinated and together, ” Wolff said. 

As the date of the super regionals inches even closer, forensics students revise their work and up the ante on rehearsal and memorization. Extemporaneous students, meanwhile, work on collecting more data on their potential topics.   

“I find time in between my day to go over my speech in my head and make sure I’m getting my lines memorized. I also performed it in front of my four year old cousin, because my performance, after all, is intended for younger children,” Dombro said. “ Refining my work is important because my opponents will be refined too, and I’m going to keep doing things I’ve always done like rehearsing whenever I can.” 

In the end, the club sponsor asserts that the team’s love and determination are what have allowed them to perform well in the speech world. 

“I’ve been the club sponsor for a long time, and I plan to continue my role for the foreseeable future,” Clougherty said. I loved it then, I love it now, and I know that we’re going to do well this year because our students are truly motivated.”