Speech adapts and thrives even within a pandemic


Charlie Damberg

Students who take first place in all their rounds at speech tournaments have the honor of signing the picket fence.

The speech team has been all virtual this 2020-2021 season and it hasn’t held them back. The length of the season has remained the same despite COVID and they have already competed in six tournaments this year. The team is led by 5 senior Captains: Jacqueline Bucaro, Joana Domingeuz-Lopez, Johan Dominguez-Lopez, Maliah Jaiteh, and Samantha Nunez-Mudoy. The team has made it to state every year from 1995-2018 and they are looking to be there again this year.

Due to COVID, the team uses a service called SpeechWire for tournaments to easily connect to video rounds and see schedules. For practices, they use Zoom or other services like Google Meet depending on the coach’s preferences. Even though the team is still able to compete, there are some drawbacks from being in person. “We’re all online now which is unfortunate because a large driving force for people to join speech has been the community. It’s harder to know who you’re on the team with when everyone’s online and we don’t have the same opportunities to socialize,” Jaiteh said.

This year, tournaments have the same schedule as previous years: the first round starts around 9:00 am and awards are usually scheduled for around 4:00 pm. “We meet up in Mahler’s Zoom before the tournament for debrief and warm-ups, which generally only takes about 15 minutes. There are three prelim rounds that everyone competes in. After that, some people break to finals! . . .After those, awards are at 4:00. A lot of tournaments have been live-streaming their awards ceremonies to make it feel more like a real tournament. We all gather in Mahler’s Zoom again to watch the stream and celebrate our winners. After that, it’s the end of the day, and we all sign off to treat our inevitable eye strain headaches,” Bucaro said.

Everything they knew about competing changed and they are STILL seeing incredible results.”

— Samantha Nunez-Mudoy

The team hasn’t been held back by the situation and have been doing very well this year. “It has been absolutely incredible. Everyone was a little nervous coming into the new season with all the changes, but every single one of our team members has taken the situation like a champion. The novices had never competed before but they came into the season ready for anything. They completely blew me away with how well they did. I was nowhere near their level when I first started and they still impress me every day. The same goes for our returning members. Everything they knew about competing changed and they are STILL seeing incredible results,” Nunez-Mudoy said.

This year is also the first time the team is sending people to NIETOC, also known as the Tournament of Champions. This is a national tournament based on performance at weekend invitational tournaments, and a few of the members have already qualified. The team has also improved this year by sending more people to NSDA National Qualifiers than previous years. “I made it to nationals last year, and I’m really hoping to make it again,” Bucaro said.

Good luck to the team on their next three tournaments and then state and sections.