Johnson leads speech team to state


The SAHS speech team is a community of close-knit students who share a passion for public speaking. Junior Carly Johnson, shown second to the left in the second row, competed against the top 24 high school speakers in the state. Photo by Conor McClellan.

All eyes focus on junior Carly Johnson as she stands up to open up to the audience and judges with a speech she wrote herself. Despite high stakes, she remains calm, comforted by knowing many of the eyes are those of her teammates there to support her.

Johnson represented the Stillwater Area High School speech team at the state speech tournament on April 19, the only member of her team to make it to that level. Although she walked away without a medal, simply being there was a win in her mind.

“I didn’t get any awards or anything, but I was competing with the top 24 people in the state,” explained Johnson. “It was just fun to be there.”

A member of the debate team, Johnson feels close to the members of the speech team, many of whom are also debaters. Several showed up at the meet to cheer Johnson on, something she greatly appreciated.

“I was the only one on the team to make it to state, but most of the team showed up to support me, and that made the day so much more fun,” said Johnson.

On her journey to the state level, Johnson said she found it difficult to believe what was happening. She met speakers from other schools over the course of the season, which made the state tournament that much more enjoyable.

“It was almost surreal,” Johnson remembered. “When I was at sections, I couldn’t believe what was going on. When I got to state it was really fun, because the whole team was there, and a lot of other people from other schools that I had talked to all year, and became friends with.”

Although her success is clear, Johnson remains humble about it and recognizes it only came with hours of hard work.

“I don’t think I was super successful this year,” said Johnson. “There were a lot more people who did a lot better than me. Closer to sections, though, I really worked hard, and put in a lot of hours rewriting my speech and practicing with my coach.”

Johnson joined the speech team last year, in its first season, but has been a member of the debate team since her freshman year. She is accustomed to speaking in front of a crowd, and finds it more exciting than nerve-racking.

“I have never gotten nervous in front of people,” said Johnson. “To me, it is an adrenaline rush and is fun.”

Competing at the state meet, though, was more nerve-racking due to the extra pressure and size of the audience.

Johnson said, “I got a little nervous at state just because the stakes were higher and so many people were there to watch me.” She added, “The meet was exciting, and nerve-racking, because there were a lot more people in each round.”

Overall, Johnson’s first season of speech was successful. Although she did not receive any awards at the state level, the experience was one she will carry with her.