Thursday, June 20, 2024

Five CHS Students Head to State for Speech and Debate


Cascade High School’s Speech and Debate program is strong this year, sending five students to the State competition on Saturday, March 11 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Coal Fiano, as a freshman, has shown his gift by qualifying for state in two events. One category is Original Oratory, a memorized persuasive speech under ten minutes on a topic of the student’s choice, and the other is Dual Interpretation, which involves two students presenting a memorized excerpt from any published material and can be humorous or dramatic.

For Fiano and his partner, junior Breanna Loomis, the pair is going for humor, presenting, “How to Survive a Horror Film.” Throughout their smooth back and forth dialogue and choreographed movements, they share actions victims could take to rescue themselves and a riff on the seven deadly sins to include victim traits such as curiosity, ugliness, and machismo.

Loomis said she enjoys working with a partner in Dual Interpretation because, “You feed off each other’s energy.” In addition to the time limit and memorization rules, the partners can’t look at each other during the presentation, nor can they use props or costumes but must depend on their voices and body language to convey meaning.

Sophomore Danielle Totman knew the topic for her original oratory after attending a Women’s March with her mom and watching the movie, The Janes. She explained, “From an objective standpoint, it’s about why abortion should be legal, what happens when it’s illegal, and why birth control is not enough of a substitute.” She honed her speech by reducing the number of quotes and using her own words to paraphrase ideas. “Also, how I tell it has changed,” she said. “I use my hands more now, I’m more relaxed, and I state my hook more dramatically.”

One can imagine with the right emphasis and pausing, the weight of Totman’s hook: “A shady motel in the bad part of town. An exchange of cash, muttered instructions, strange men, a flash of pain. Then blood and an empty hotel room. The woman, left alone, leaves, walking upright despite the blinding pain and dizziness induced by blood loss. She had just undergone an illegal abortion and now needs to drive home and prepare for work tomorrow.”

Fellow Speech and Debate member, sophomore Ande Lain is drawn to the club to be with others like Totman, saying, “It  bothers me when people are neutral about important issues. They should build strong opinions.” Lain has competed in original oratory as well but is going to state for Impromptu Speaking, as is fellow sophomore Rhonan Allen. In Impromptu, the student is given three choices of topic and a short amount of time to prepare before jumping into a speech that is hopefully persuasive and logically organized.

Lain said they can do their mental preparations in 35-45 seconds, and they’ve delivered speeches on topics including spontaneous combustion, learned helplessness and accommodations in schools. Allen said he makes sure he covers three points, like one would in an essay, and when he competes in Tall Tales, which is similar except delivered as a story using three random words, he tries to cover exposition, several plot points, a climax, and resolution.

Sophomore Reese Mathers, who missed the state qualifier but likely would have gone to state too, said about impromptu, “You just have to be convincing. Pretend it’s not impromptu and portray the confidence that you know what you’re talking about.”

Most of the students have a background in acting or other forms of public speaking. “Theater helps because I know how to speak in front of people and use my voice and body,” Fiano said. “I’m comfortable when I’m speaking. When I finish, the adrenaline floods into my body and my legs feel like noodles.”

Social studies and psychology teacher Dwayne Allen is back to coaching the team after a hiatus. He coached for fifteen years and won State Coach of the Year, so students can draw on his experience and advice as they refine their deliveries. Allen is happy to be back, saying, “These kids put in time and effort about things that matter. They’re eloquent and passionate about the topics they explore.”

The competition at State will be fierce, with 57 schools competing at the 3A level. For sports, Cascade is 1A, but Speech and Debate isn’t common in a lot of smaller schools, so Cascade has to compete “up” against much bigger schools to the west and east. The top seven students in each category are recognized after winning top marks in three consecutive rounds and then getting ranked in a final round. Going to State is also about the fun experience since this is the first year it’s in person since before the pandemic.



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