Cannon Falls speech team winners Back row from left, Connor Loeschke, Ashton Beyer, Kendall Lawless, Cannon Quade and Tristin Qualey. Front row from left, Bianca Caputo, Lydia Pedersen, Grace Miller, Sophia Hanson, Lauren Ritz and Emily Barrett.

After two years without in-person competitions, the Cannon Falls High School speech team returned to in-person competitions this month.

Feb. 5

On the morning of February 5, 32 students of Cannon Falls High School rolled out of their beds, dressed up in business formal suits and dresses, packed lunches, located the most convenient source of caffeine and headed to school. The Cannon Falls speech team was back in action, ready for their home tournament. One that would not be like any other. 

The 2022 Cannon Falls Invitational Speech Meet was the first in-person tournament attended by the team since March 2020. About 350 students from 26 schools competed in three rounds. Speechies were ecstatic to return to their natural state of performing in the same room as judges and peers. 

Rookie speechie Sonya Milkovia expressed her delight: “It was exciting. I was nervous, but it was so much fun to listen to everyone else's speech.” 

However, the pandemic is not out of mind yet. At the tournament, the team took a few precautions regarding the virus. Speakers and judges were asked to wear masks, although speakers were given the option to remove their face coverings while performing. Speakers were asked to remain in small groups and avoid congregating in the cafeteria, as would be usual at pre-pandemic tournaments. 

Overall, the tournament looked just like a pre-pandemic tournament, except for two major changes. 

First, to avoid packing people into the auditorium, the typical awards presentation was replaced by a virtual one. Co-head coach Holly Winget touched on the second biggest change; “For the judging, we offered them a hybrid. You could either judge completely online by putting your rankings and critiques online, you could do your ranks online but with written critiques, or you could do total paper.” 

Many recognize this as a direct result of the pandemic; previous to the 2021 virtual season, the idea of online critiques was in the minds of few. These challenges brought their own challenges and adjustments, but Winget puts it best when she says; “The (technology) cat is out of the bag, and it will never go back in.”

At the end of the day, the Cannon Falls speech team achieved a decisive win. In total, 14 team members went home with awards. The team produced two first-place awards; Kendahl Lawless in dramatic interpretation and Tristan Qualey in poetry. 

Additionally, they received the most points in the team sweepstakes, with 46 points total. Each speechie walked away from the tournament feeling accomplished and exhausted, but ready to practice hard and improve in preparation for the next competition.

Other varsity award winners include Ashton Beyer and Connor Loeschke receiving second place in discussion and great speeches respectively and third-place awards for Lydia Pedersen in extemporaneous speaking and Bianca Caputo in informative speaking. 

Awards for fourth place went to Meagan Pedersen in creative expression, Miah Barsness in poetry and Sara Auger in storytelling while fifth place was awarded to Ava Brokate in extemporaneous reading, Grace Churchill in poetry and Jessica Baszuro in prose. In the duo category, Bowen Maki and Kendahl Zimmerman received sixth place.

Novice competitors were given separate awards at the Cannon Falls tournament, with the placings as follows; Lauren Capelle receiving fourth place in extemporaneous reading, Josh Delk taking sixth place in extemporaneous speaking, Thomas Coyle receiving fourth place in great speeches, Wil Brokate placing second in humor, Grace Parks with second place in informative speaking and Sophia Hanson placing second in poetry.

Feb. 12

On Saturday, February 12, the Cannon Falls speech team loaded a bus to travel to the John Marshall Speech Spectacular tournament in Rochester. The team arrived at Cannon Falls High School at the early hour of 6:30 a.m. and prepared for the long day ahead. 

Dressed in their finest business attire, the team entered the school and set up camp in the cafeteria. After a set of vocal warmups, speakers prepared their speeches and entered their rooms for the first round to commence. 

The John Marshall Speech Spectacular had the three rounds standard of every speech tournament, plus a final round for the top six competitors in each of the 13 categories. In the final round, speakers perform in front of three judges (in normal rounds, there is one judge), and final round scores are finalized to determine their rankings head-to-head. 

Cannon Falls was successful at the John Marshall tournament, bringing home the second place trophy as an overall team. Individual awards had a novice and varsity split, meaning that all speakers who went to the final round got a varsity award and the top six novice (students who have never earned a varsity award) competitors placed in order of prelims performance, without a final round. 

Three Cannon Falls speakers were champions of their category: Ashton Beyer in discussion, Connor Loeschke in great speeches, and Sophia Hanson in poetry. Aubry Conway received first place in the novice division of storytelling. Cannon Quade in humorous and Lauren Ritz in storytelling both placed second in the varsity division, with Madi Dettman and Lily Nygaard in duo, Lauren Capelle in extemporaneous reading, and Sonya Milkova in prose earning second place in the novice division. Third-place awards in the varsity division went to Kendall Lawless in drama, Grace Miller in extemporaneous reading and Lydia Pedersen in extemporaneous speaking. 

Thomas Coyle earned a third-place novice award in great speeches. Tristin Qualey placed fourth in the varsity division of poetry, and Grey Springer earned fourth place in novice humorous. Bianca Caputo in informative speaking and Emily Barrett from original oratory both earned fifth place in the varsity division. Wil Brokate earned sixth place in novice humorous. 

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no awards ceremony held at John Marshall in Rochester. However, they put a slideshow together and gave a video to each team to announce awards. Written critiques of each round were sent out virtually on Saturday evening for each speaker to reflect on and prepare for the upcoming week’s tournament in Farmington.

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