COLCHESTER — Colchester High School’s speech team finished off an undefeated season last weekend when it won big and took home first place in the Vermont state championship.
The state championship on Feb. 6, like all speech competitions this year, took place virtually. The CHS team also held practices every week from November to February through video conferences.
“These students never complained, and brought so much energy and positivity to each other and our community all season,” said Ben Beaudoin, the speech team coach and a CHS teacher.
Over the weekend, several students on the 20-person team also won individual awards in their respective categories:
1st Place: Poetry - Gloria Kigonya, 11th grade
1st Place: Performance Poetry - Gloria Kigonya, 11th grade
1st Place: Drama - Jared Carnesale, 10th grade
1st Place: Prose - Isabella Basille, 11th grade
1st Place: Extemporaneous - Stephanie Trepanier, 12th grade
1st Place: Radio - Logan Mock, 12th grade
“We all kind of kicked into high gear, and everyone on our team was just the best that they could be this year,” said Stephanie Trepanier, a senior and member of the speech team.
The season started in early November, and consisted of eight tournaments against area high schools like Champlain Valley Union, Essex, South Burlington and Blue Mountain Union. CHS students practice and compete in a category of their choice based on their interests.
Logan Mock, a senior, participates in the radio category, he said, because he’s interested in a career in media and broadcasting.
During the state championship, in which he won first place, he had to talk about local and national news, give sports updates, provide weather reports and narrate a commercial.
“I’ve stuck with the team because of the community, and because it was just fun and different from anything else I've done before,” he said.
Gloria Kigonya, a junior, who won first place in two poetry categories, performed a poem by Amanda Goreman, the young poet who recently read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and the Super Bowl. Kigonya also performed a series of poems relating to mental health in communities of color.
Before joining the speech team her freshman year, Kigonya considered herself to be a shy person.
“I wasn't sure how it was going to go for me, but I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “The speech team is now like this family that I can always count on.”
Trepanier competes in a category called Extemporaneous, which consists of off-the-cuff speech-making. Students are given three political topics from national or international news and 30 minutes to research them before giving their speech.
“The final speech I gave last Saturday during the tournament was on a nuclear deal that Russia just backed out of,” she said. “It's really a mixed bag.”
Trepanier’s speech on Russia earned her first place.
“It's fun to go to these speech competitions and focus on winning and learn more about different things, but the real reason that I think most people on this team have stayed and stuck with it and enjoyed being on the team is the community,” she said. “We're all really close.”
When the CHS speech team was in need of a new coach three years ago, Beaudoin stepped up because he knows how important the skill of public speaking is. He said he still sometimes gets nervous when he has to make a speech, and wanted to help give students the confidence to overcome that fear.
“It has been inspiring to see them speak and lead with so much confidence this year,” he said.