WHS Speech Team set records

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Pictured are members of the Waterloo High School speech team who participated in the individual categories at  state. Pictured, front row, from left, are Josie Giffhorn, Anna Kuhnert and Austin Bedford, back row: Drew Totra, Chuck Davidson, Grant Barker and Bobby Lee. 

The Waterloo High School Speech Team set records collectively and individually last weekend at the Illinois High School Association state tournament last weekend. 

Coached by WHS teacher John Rickert, the team placed 12th overall in the tourney, the highest in its history. 

It had a total of 10 points, which was 25 points behind the first-place finisher. 

Chuck Davidson led the WHS crew by finishing as runner-up in both the original comedy and humorous interpretation categories, giving him the highest individual point total at the state level in team history. 

“Making it to the state finals in just one event would have been a great fulfillment of my high school speech ambitions,” Davidson said. “The fact that I made it to the finals in two events and got runner-up in both is beyond my wildest imagination. When I first started speech, my coach Mr. Rickert told me to go on YouTube to look at state champions in the events that I was assigned to compete in. I aspired to be one of those older kids on that stage finals stage with a piece that I’ve worked on all year.” 

The pandemic forced the event to be virtual this year, meaning there was no stage for Davidson to ascend, but he said he still felt a rush of emotions. 

“As they announced the final standings during the awards ceremony, there were a wide range of emotions that hit when I realized I was in the top two,” Davidson recounted. “It feels good to know that my work is going to be viewed by younger generations as a guide to succeed in speech, and I’m glad I am ending my high school career on such a positive note.” 

In addition to Davidson, the team sent six individual and its Performance in the Round cast to state. 

Directed by Catherine Downen, that cast finished tied for seventh overall. Its members were Jack Schnepel, Kayla Ahne, Claire Papenberg, Marisa Hoffman, Gillian Marquardt, Emma Wittenauer, Sarah Hanlin and Summer Wilson. 

Grant Barker also earned seventh place in special occasion speaking. 

The other WHS state tournament participants did not finish in the top 10, but they still had notable success. 

Bobby Lee placed 14th in extemporaneous speaking and 17th in impromptu speaking, the duo of Josie Giffhorn and Austin Bedord placed 14th in dramatic duet acting, Drew Totra finished 14th in prose reading and Anna Kuhnert got 16th in original oratory. 

Davidson, who only got involved with speech after his older brother, TJ, had some success in the activity, said the team’s performance is a testament to Rickert’s efforts. 

“Mr. Rickert has been an exceptional coach and mentor and, most importantly, one of my best friends over the last four years,” Davidson said. “He always has ideas that make you question why you haven’t thought of it sooner, which is what makes him a great coach. Mr. Rickert is the driving force behind the WHS Speech Team, and all of our success can be attributed to him. Without him, the culture of this team would never have evolved to where it is today.” 

That culture is extremely important in speech. 

The competitive speech season lasts several months and includes multiple tournaments. 

At each tournament, students compete in 14 individual events. From regionals on, the students form a team for the Performance in the Round event. 

The WHS Speech Team usually has dozens of members, and the top two students in each event per school count toward the team’s overall school. 

The scores awarded to students by two judges also determine where students place individually. 

Through all that, bonds often form on the team, and Davidson said that is another key to success. 

“Having the support of my teammates, friends and family helped me to consistently adapt and improve my performances over the course of this season,” he said. “The high amount of collaboration that is needed in this activity makes it so fun and creates relationships with people you would have never imagined being so close with.” 

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