H-F Speech Team Places 5th at IHSA State Speech Finals


Photo courtesy of H-F F.Y.I

Seven of the state bound speech team members. The team competed at the state competition on Feb. 19 and 20.

The H-F speech team had their most unique season yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not stop them from placing first at both sectionals and regionals. On Feb. 20, the team placed fifth at the state competition. 

Individual members of the team all contributed to the overall fifth place finish. Seniors Adeera Harris and Starr Hollis placed first in Dramatic Duet Acting, Hollis placed third in Prose reading and Harris placed fourth in Dramatic Interpretation. Senior Nia Smith placed fourth in Oratorical Declamation, and senior Victoria Olaleye placed fifth in poetry reading.   

The Performance in the Round: The Song That Brought Back Spring (Avery Calhoon, Destiny Garner, Ronald Gerring, Kobe Gosha, Aaron McIntyre, Jazmin Rhodes, Zosha Schall, Alexander Wallace & Jayla Watts) placed fifth, Kieran Hanley placed sixth in Extemporaneous Speaking, Morgan Barber placed ninth in Informative Speaking and Siara Carpenter placed  eleventh in Original Oratory. 

At the beginning of the school year, members of the speech team were allowed to meet in-person in small groups with coaches to practice their pieces; but due to COVID-19 protocol, the team had to rely on online meetings to continue the season from November to January. Right before the state series, the team was able to meet in-person again to get one-on-one coaching. 

The varsity speech team head coach, Janine Stroemer highlighted the uniqueness of this season being that there were limited in-person meetings and competitions. 

“I think our students unfortunately [were] burnt out a little quicker because they not only had to practice their speech, but they had to make sure they had a good recording to submit. It was just more taxing on our students this year,” Stroemer said. 

Harris has been a member of the speech team since her freshman year, but notes this season was unlike any other.

“It was a weird transition because I missed the energy that everyone brought at seven in the morning and [performing] in a room full of people where they could react, laugh or cry. The [sense] of community was lost in the beginning, but as the season went on we learned how to adapt and connect with others more,” Harris said. 

In order to keep the speechies motivated and engaged, the team had movie nights, and held celebrations for the accomplishments of students in and outside of speech. 

“Since speech has such a long season, it’s really a marathon; and we’re training that marathon mentality. I understand that with everything that is going on it was hard for many of our students,” Stroemer said. “We generally try to keep [things] as positive as possible. We always call ourselves a speech family, so without contact it was definitely an arduous task.” 

Adeera Harris (left) and Starr Hollis (right) holding their first place plaques after competing in Dramatic Duet Acting at the regional competition. (Photo Courtesy of Janine Stroemer)

A majority of the team consisted of seniors who built a comradery over their years in speech together and despite their separation, the speechies continued to encourage each other. Hollis and other team members knew the importance of keeping each other motivated.

“Encouraging ourselves was hard. Taking on a role to [make sure] everyone else is in good spirits motivated me to always be optimistic because there are people counting on me. I think the sense that I was pushing people helped me to keep going even when I wanted to give up,” Hollis said. 

While the road to state was not easy, the team’s hard work paid off. 

Stroemer could not be more proud of the group of state qualifiers. The qualifiers, who Stroemer refers to as her “super seven,” was an all female group that has worked together over their years in speech.

“This group of young ladies had such a bond to begin with. To watch them grow and develop over time is more exciting than anything,” Stroemer said. “Seeing their breakthroughs and peaks of development probably geeks me more than having the trophy.”

It’d been a long time coming for many seniors on the team like Smith, but she never gave up on her hopes of making the state finals. 

“It felt like a full circle moment. You dream about it, but you never feel that it’s attainable to make state finals,” Smith said. “Making state finals I felt like there was nothing else I could do. I was finally at the top.” 

For members like Olaleye, a win at state was a great way to close out their speech career on top. 

“After I saw my name on the list for state finals, it was one of the best feelings in the world. It was just one of those moments where you had to be proud of yourself no matter the outcome,” Olaleye said. “Sometimes we don’t recognize how good we are, so when we finally got to that moment it just felt super good. If I could relive that moment, I would.” 

Next year will be a rebuilding year for the team as many leading seniors will be graduating. Stroemer hopes to recruit more members for next season.

“We’re going to be asking our sophomore and junior members to step up and we will rally behind them with support as best we can,” Stroemer said.” We will open the doors to all, and hopefully being back at school in the fall we’ll have a better chance in doing that.”