Speech team prepares for another season


Photo by Michael Fredericks

Speech captain Soren Peterson practices his extemporaneous speaking. He draws the audience in and uses his amazing memory to impress judges.

Last year, the speech team performed phenomenally and made it into the top 40 of the nation. The group started preparing for the upcoming season in the summer and the beginning of the school year. Captains reached out to students to help grow the team to its full potential which made the students and coaches very optimistic for tournaments this year. 

“We’re returning a really strong group of students. We secured some new coaches, our staff is bigger than it has ever been before. So we’re kind of rounding into one of the powerhouses in the state in speech,” head coach Joe Kalka explained.

With a larger and more talented team, a more experienced and diverse staff was needed to give these students the success they wanted this season. With so many students more coaches were needed to reach each of them and also prepare them to become the best they can be. Teachers, past speech students and even a nationally recognized speaker were all added to the staff, which helped prepare the team to perform even better this year. 

“So our new coaches this year are Wayne Perkins who comes from a debate background and is obviously a teacher here at the school. Sarah Lauer who is a former speech competitor herself and also a teacher at the school. She is going to bring lots of success and hopefully diversify the team more,” Kalka explained.

Teachers at the school provided a way to find students interested in speech and point them in that direction. With so many students though, teachers could not be the only coaches for the team. 

“Mackenzie Burski is a former very competitive speaker from Lakeville north and is now a student at UW Stout volunteering for our discussion category, which this year is themed on environmentalism. Hannah Kelco, who’s an attorney, my wife and does some environmental adjacent law. And then Natalie Syntek is a longtime speech coach. I think collectively they’re just going to bring expertise,” Kalka added.

Communication is the single most important skill in the modern world. You can’t get anywhere if you can’t communicate and there are a whole bunch of different ways to do that. Speech allows people to sort of explore different ways of communication”

— Soren Peterson

Many returning team members became captains this year to help novices with their expertise from last year. These captains were chosen due to their ability to perform well and able to help grow and make the team better. During the preseason, these captains reached out to old members to make sure they were informed of upcoming meetings. They also networked to find the people who would best help the team grow. They added student leadership to the speech team that is not seen in many other extracurriculars. 

Junior speech captain Soren Peterson explained how he was getting old members into the loop of what is going on with the team along with trying to build the personnel of the team so they can dominate in all of the categories speech has. He thought that the team was looking very promising with recruits and returning speakers. 

Much of the preseason for speech was trying to recruit students from all backgrounds and areas. Getting these perspectives and new ideas was important to the team because it gave them more variety in categories and more depth in certain subjects. Students from all walks of life met together to speak their minds and share what mattered to them. The team consisted of anyone and everyone willing to put in the work and wanted to share what they are passionate about. The speech team was open to everyone. 

Senior speech captain Iris Fuglie explained how speech is “really empowering” and allows students to talk about “something you’re passionate about.” 

It took a lot of hard work for competitors to memorize up to 10-minute-long speeches. Although the captains and coaches were there for support, much of the work done on the speeches was personal. Many students wrote their speeches and many had to memorize long blocks of text to look the most polished during tournaments. The preseason was a busy time full of writing, revising and memorizing but also adding their flare to it.

Fuglie explained that she enjoyed picking out her topic on women’s rights and how she was excited to add her spin to her speech. 

Something unique to speech was that students learned valuable skills that they can use for themselves such as working hard, public speaking and respectful communication. Many of the speeches and topics are hard and controversial but students learned how to share their opinions without shutting down others. Speech offered a way for students to break out of their shells, gain confidence and learn real-life skills. In the world today, these skills are crucial to success. 

“Communication is the single most important skill in the modern world. You can’t get anywhere if you can’t communicate and there are a whole bunch of different ways to do that. Speech allows people to sort of explore different ways of communication,” Peterson said. 

The speech team was like a family full of comradery and respect. Veteran speech competitors were excited for novices to gain the amazing memories that they have. To inspire and give interest, stories of success, failures, and fun times were passed around with laughter and smiles. The team was very kind and welcoming and wanted everyone to become the best they can be. They were excited to make memories with their team this year. 

Peterson said that his favorite speech memory was “The first final I ever made” and that it “lit that fire” that kept him competing. He was excited to give the newer competitors that same fire. 

The speech team was excited to start the preseason off so strongly. They were excited to share their passions with those around them and teach others the important skills and depth that it can bring. The speech team is not a club or a sport, it is a united group that welcomed all and was ready to let all voices be heard. 

“Students in this school are passionate they’re driven, they’re caring, and they have things to say. We’re giving them a platform to deliver messages that matter, and that we’re giving them a platform to deliver messages people need to hear,” Kalka said.