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Speech season – it’s a wrap

The DCHS Speech Team has completed their regular season of competition, and it was a season unlike any other, “virtually” speaking. 


Senior Jenna Juenemann and Junior Gage Scott competed in five total online or virtual tournaments hosted by a variety of schools throughout the state. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the traditional “face-to-face” format of Speech competitions was replaced by online tournaments which took place in real-time via Zoom or asynchronously, in which competitors pre-recorded their pieces for competition and were critiqued by judges over the course of a few days. 


“With all the changes to the Speech circuit this year, it was great to see veteran speakers rise to the occasion and deliver quality performances,” said Coach Ladd Wendelin. He said that the team had at least four other potential speakers who took an interest in joining the team, but conflicting schedules, the spring play and sports practices shifted their priorities around some.


“I never begrudge students when they make the best decisions for themselves, even if that means not being on the team,” said Mr. Wendelin. “I was happy to take on Gage and Jenna and push them to excel in the events, which they did.” 


The Speech season began last month with the Golden Plains tournament hosted by Rexford, where Gage received a 5th place in finals for his serious solo, an adaptation of the classic sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. While Jenna did not place in finals for her poem, “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley, she received high speaker points during three rounds of competition.


Rankings improved for Jenna at the next tournament held earlier this month, the Eagles Last Chance to Soar Tournament, hosted by Trego Community High School in Wakeeney. Jenna earned two 3rds and a 4th place in three rounds in the poetry event, while Gage earned three 2nd place finishes in the preliminary rounds, and a 7th place finish in finals at the tournament. 


The next tournament was hosted online by Sylvan-Lucas High School. Gage earned high marks in two rounds, and finished in 5th place in serious solo, thanks to two 2nd place finishes in prelims and a 3rd place finish in finals. Jenna received a 4th place and a 2nd place finish in the poetry event during prelims, but did not break into finals. 


During the Abilene Cowboys Last Chance tournament, Gage received a 4th place, 6th place, and a 5th place in three rounds, while Jenna earned a 6th place, 3rd place, and a 3rd place during prelim rounds. Neither speaker broke into finals during this tournament.


“While learning the online format of competition has been a challenge for me, it’s been a boon for Gage and Jenna whether they realized it or not,” Mr. Wendelin said. “In a regular season, they would never get the chance to compete against speakers from bigger schools out east, and they also got some very honest and constructive feedback on their ballots from judges who they would never have met otherwise.” 


In the final tournament of the season, the Cardinals Last Chance to Qualify tournament, hosted by Sedgwick High School, Gage earned a 4th place and 2nd place in two rounds of prelims, and finishing with a 3rd place in Finals, which qualifies him for State Festival. Jenna earned a 5th place and a 4th place finish in prelims, but did not break into finals. 


The Kansas State High School Athletic Association has publicly stated that next year would signal a return to face-to-face tournaments for the benefit of students’ social, emotional and mental well-being, Mr. Wendelin said, yet it remains to be seen if that will mean a combination of both virtual and in-person tournaments, or in-person competition only.


“I’m very proud of Jenna and Gage,” Mr. Wendelin said. “Between the two of them, they kept the tradition of the speech team alive and strong in an unusual year.”


While there are no plans for the annual Evening of Forensics, Gage and Jenna’s performances are available for the public to view at the links listed below. 


Jenna Juenemann - Poetry - “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley


Gage Scott - Serious Solo - “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards