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The Student News Site of Liberty High School

The Live Wire

Liberty Speech: a record-setting season

From an all-time high number of students participating, to Liberty’s first time hosting an IHSSA district competition, this year’s speech season has been full of firsts.
The Liberty Speech team has a record-high number of students participating, with many students trying speech for the first time.
Kaelyn Rickels
The Liberty Speech team has a record-high number of students participating, with many students trying speech for the first time.

The Liberty Speech Team has had a season full of accomplishment and new beginnings as they continue to build upon the success of previous seasons. Coached by Kimberly Sleezer and Schuyler Fynaardt, the team continues to make school history as they head into their state competition.

Many students are unclear on what it means to be a part of the speech team and what competitions consist of.

“Like most people, before I joined I thought speech was a club where you would read some historical text or famous speech,” said Noah Gregoire, junior. “I think the name is very misleading, at least for group events, because if I was naming it, I would probably call it performing arts due to how similar they are.”

The Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) offers over 20 different events for students to choose from. From large group to individual, musical theater to radio broadcasting, there is truly an event to fit every person. 

Competitions take place throughout the winter, where judges watch and score events. Competitors are issued ratings based on their performance, with an “I” being the highest possible score. In order to advance to the State and All-State competitions, competitors must receive an “I” from two out of the three judges.

This year’s Large Group Speech team has been one of the largest in school history. This year, 46 students are participating, doubling last year’s participation of 23 students. Students from all different backgrounds and activities are in speech, with many trying it for the first time.

“I’m noticing that we have students from music, we have students from athletics, we have students that aren’t in anything else. That’s what I’m most proud of, the diversity of the students that are in speech,” said Sleezer. 

Many students have stepped out of their comfort zone by joining the speech team.

“The team is very welcoming. I was very awkward in the beginning because I didn’t know anyone but I warmed up right away,” said Charlie Harvey, freshman.

Speech Team members have also learned unexpected lessons and gained life skills that extend beyond speech competitions. 

“Some lessons I’ve learned are to try new things and put yourself in those uncomfortable situations. I think improv helps me with quickly thinking and reacting and can be applicable to problem-solving,” said Gregoire.

With the growth that the team has seen in recent years, many upperclassmen have had the opportunity to step into leadership roles within the team.

“As a senior this year I definitely feel I have more pressure on my shoulders to mentor our new speech team members,” said Olivia Gonzalez, senior, “ I’m glad for this though, I want to leave this speech team better than I found it, and when I look around at my team I know we’re going to great places.” 

Gonzalez was one of the founding members of Liberty’s first Large Group Speech Team and has had a very positive experience over the past three years. 

“My favorite part of being on the speech team is getting to meet new people and watching them perform. The best part of being at a speech competition is seeing so many different acts. No two entries are the same and I think it’s beautiful the creativity people have,” said Gonzalez.

In order to perform well at competitions, the team puts in lots of hard work during practices that often go unrecognized. 

“For large group, they practice twice a week… about an hour twice a week. If you’re in one event it’s a minimum of two hours a week… Large group practices run from the first of November to February 17th,” said Sleezer.

This year, Liberty High School had the opportunity to host the Large Group District Speech competition for the first time in school history. Over 600 students from 24 participating schools competed at Liberty on Saturday, Jan. 20. The Liberty Speech team and coaches spent months preparing for the event.

“I have been working on that with Mrs. Fynaardt since this time last year… There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes. The Friday before, the [speech team] came in and set up for the contest, that was a four-hour event. Then we ran [the competition]  from six that next morning to about five o’clock that night,” said Sleezer, “I think it’s great for students to be involved in a massive operation like that because they understand the other side of it and they’re more grateful when we go to contests.”

Out of the 14 performances at the district competition, the Liberty Speech Team qualified for state in ten of them. The Large Group Speech State competition is being held on Saturday, Feb 3 at Pleasant Valley High School and Liberty has high expectations for success.

“Our goal is always to earn ‘ones’ at the state competition… We have a goal of getting at least one group to All-State. At the district contest, over 40,000 students started, only four percent of those will go on to All-State, so we would like to be part of that four percent,” said Sleezer.

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About the Contributor
Kaelyn Rickels, Website Manager
Kaelyn is a junior and this is her second year on staff. At Liberty, she participates in softball, Garden Club, and NHS. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time outside, reading Stephen King, and watching nature documentaries.