Bianca Caputo reacts to her first place finish at the Cannon Falls Speech Tournament on Feb. 6.

On a bone chilling Saturday morning in early February, twenty-eight students and three coaches gathered in various locations to kick off the 2021 CFHS speech season, sure to be one of the most unique on record. Despite a few minimal glitches, the Bomber squad and the twenty schools that joined them, virtually, found many positive results from their first-ever online speech tournament. 

Head coaches Cal Vande Hoef and Holly Winget were relieved to find out that a very complex process could be mastered with only a few hiccups, and that their team could still experience a speech competition while operating under strict COVID-19 protocols. Not only were the coaches and their team hosting schools from as far away as Cambridge, St. Peter and Fairmont, but they had added elements to the tournament which are complicated, even under the best of circumstances. The Cannon Falls Invitational featured two divisions, varsity and novice, and included a final round in each event, a feature not often incorporated in early season tournaments.  According to Vande Hoef,  “I consider our tournament a rough draft for the season, and I'm looking forward to what our creative speech community does to improve how speech works for our students.”   

The team, too, found success at this tournament, as they finished in third place behind tourney champion Rochester John Marshall, and finished only a few points behind second place Fairmont.  Individually two Bomber speakers captured first in their category – Emma Watson in Humorous, and Bianca Caputo in Informative.  Aizlynn Thim tied for first in Extemporaneous Reading, but finished in second on a tie breaker. Three students finished in fourth: Isaiah Wildenberg in Informative, Cannon Quade in Humorous, and Kendall Lawless in Drama.  Taking fifth place were: Ashton Beyer in Discussion, Grace Miller in Extemporaneous Reading, and Sara Auger in Storytelling. Sixth place finishers were: Elliot Klavon in Storytelling, Bowen Maki and Kendahl Zimmerman in Duo, and Tristin Qualey in Prose.

The fact that speakers are either zooming from home, or are working from school in a room by themselves ensures the team that they are taking all of the available precautions, and no COVID spread is likely between team members. Most speakers don’t worry about the Covid precautions.  Team captain Aizlynn Thim remarked that “A lot of us speechies were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to make the memories we normally did during previous seasons But after our first tournament, we found that the pandemic couldn’t stop us from being our goofy selves and doing what speechies do every Saturday.”

The team competes again on Saturday, Feb. 13 against a similar group of teams, this time hosted by Rochester John Marshall.

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