MORRIS – Two members of the Morris Redskins Speech Team recently placed at the IHSA State Speech Team Finals. Senior Maggie Dudley took third in the Radio Speaking category, and senior Tyler Mroczek took sixth in Dramatic Interpretation.
The placings were even more exceptional, according to head coach and MCHS teacher Andrea Gustafson, considering that there are no school size categories in the competition.
“You’re up against huge schools so it’s really competitive," she said. "Everybody in the state is thrown together. It’s very challenging.”
Five members of the team qualified for and competed at state, including seniors Olivia Mettille and Teagan Sandvik for Dramatic Duet; freshman Nicholas Russell for Humorous Interpretation; and Mroczek and Dudley, who also competed in Original Oratory.
Speech team members spend the season learning how to compete in some 14 events. Most of the events are individual, but there are also duets and groups. Some involve learning speeches written by other people, and some speeches are written by the students.
Some events are oratories written on the spot at the competitions, with students having no advanced knowledge of the topic.
“There’s something for everybody,” Gustafson said of the categories.
Dudley said placing third at state was amazing and a bit surreal. She’s been on the team since she was a freshman when an upperclassman suggested it to her.
“I decided to join because I really liked acting and I thought it would be something really interesting,” she said.
Dudley actually placed first at state, but so did two other competitors. It was a three-way tie, but judges’ comments bumped her down two notches. In addition to placing in Radio Speaking, she also competed at state in Original Oratory.
She said Radio Speaking involves coming up with a full radio broadcast on the spot. Competitors are given pages of local, national and international news; sports and weather, and they have 45 minutes to write a broadcast script from that information. They then broadcast their script to the judges.
“It’s not as hard as it sounds,” Dudley said. “We have a lot of practices, and there’s a lot of great upperclassmen and coaches on the team.”
Dudley wrote her original oratory on the importance of respecting pronouns that refer to people.
“Today, people sometimes have different pronouns than what you’d expect ... It was a topic that I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about,” she said, “and I thought it was something I could stay passionate about for a whole season.”
Dudley said she has learned so much from her experience on the Speech Team.
“One of the most important things I learned was confidence,” she said. “To do one of the scariest things – public speaking. It showed me that even when I am scared and I don’t know if I can perform well, I can still do my best, and I can still try. It was life-changing.”
Gustafson said she and the other coaches are proud of the performances of Dudley and Mroczek and everyone else on this year’s team.
“It was mainly seniors who went to state this year,” she said, “but the team was actually very young. We had a tremendous showing this year from our freshmen and sophomores, many of whom were in varsity and competing in sectionals and regionals.”
Eight freshmen on the team lettered this year, she said, which is a record for the team. Previously, the most letters give to freshmen in a season were three.
Assisstant coaches are Tanya McKinney, Alora Runchey and Adam Roseland.