Despite the numerous snow days interrupting practice, Creston High School’s large group speech team performed well at the district competition Jan. 20, with nine of the 13 groups earning a ticket to the state competition Feb. 3.
High school speech is split into two main categories: large group and individual event. Creston’s large group performers began their season in December, 45 students making up 13 groups.
“Large group is where we have multiple different categories where students do speeches together, whether it be a one-act play, musical theater, a short film,” Laura Granger, the large group coach, said. “There’s different rules for each category as to how many people can be in it, the length of time, the criteria, that kind of thing.”
Granger said the students did well in their district performances, despite the snow impeding practice.
“Thankfully, the kids were very dedicated, hard workers,” Granger said. “Whenever there was a snow day but the weather didn’t end up being that bad, we could practice. Thankfully we were able to come in on those days and the kids did that to the best of their ability, and then we did a few Zoom practices with the groups that that worked for, and pretty much just hustled as best we could. The kids were real troopers with that and putting in their time outside [of practice] to get things done.”
The groups are judged on a variety of things, depending on what category they are in. However, all speech performances have a couple general areas to perfect.
“Generally they’re judged on their projection, how well they articulate, characterization, vocal variety, facial expressions,” Granger said. “Those are the things they are looking for – can you create a character, can you use your voice and your body effectively to convey the message or the mood or the meaning? There are a ton of different factors that you have to look at.”
The nine groups that are continuing onto state will focus on polishing their performances and following notes left by judges at district.
“This week, we’ve been working on the script a little bit closer, because some areas that we got dinged on was articulation and coming in at the right time, allowing pauses for laughter, and how long do you pause,” Granger said. “That’s something that, as a group, they almost have to sense and feel when they’re going to come in together, which is so challenging.”
Despite these challenges, Granger said the students have been working hard to fix their errors. This doesn’t stop them from having fun, though.
“I’m just really, really proud of the kids’ dedication and how well they want to do,” Granger said. “We still have silly practices where we’re laughing and enjoying ourselves, but knowing that balance of when it’s time for fun and when it’s time to get down to business. The kids have been really awesome with that. I’m really lucky, we’ve got a great batch of kids this year.”
In just over a week, Creston’s speech team will head to Ankeny Centennial High School, where they will compete with the rest of Southwest Iowa in the state competition. There, contestants will perform before three judges with the hopes of moving on to the Iowa All-State Festival Feb. 17.
In order to be invited to all-state, a group must be nominated by two of the three judges. Granger said it is can be hard to make it to all-state, as speech judging is subjective. Once arriving at the all-state festival, there is no longer competition. Instead, the students just share their work.
“It’s not necessarily the ultimate goal, but a lot of kids of course want to perform and get there, because it’s definitely bragging rights,” Granger said. “It’s very cool to get to perform on that large of a stage and get to see talent from across the state. It’s definitely something that they hope to achieve, but as long as they perform their best and they feel really proud of what they do at state, then we feel really happy.”
Granger explained that, no matter what happens, the speech team is one big family.
“We’re really fortunate to have the great little speech team family that we have going on,” Granger said. “We’ve also had a handful of alumni be coming in and offering feedback. I think that really speaks to a lot of the kids’ love for the speech team.”
The individual event season has already started, with students practicing their material to prepare for the district competition on Feb. 24. Later performances include the individual state competition March 9 and all-state festival March 27.