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Under the radar, the speech and debate team overachieves

By Courtney Foster
Published: November 2010

Even the least athletic students at South are well informed about the records of our sports teams.
A person wondering how our Girls’ Volleyball team is doing this season would quickly be told that they made it to the playoffs.
Why are there suddenly so many boys mimicking Eminem’s platinum- blond dyed hair? That, as anyone could tell you, is an annual cross-country team spirit tradition.
However, there is one competitive team at South, arguably the most successful, that is hardly talked about. That is the Speech and Debate team.
The Speech team has sent at least one student to the national speech finals for eleven consecutive years and was the state champion team in both 2008 and 2009.
Though this season has just begun, the team is already starting out strong, placing second at the Dighton-Rehoboth tournament, the first real tournament of the year.
Sophomore Holly Higgins won first place in the Declamation event, as did senior Justin Kieran in varsity Extemporaneous speaking. Among the second place winners were senior Nahuel Fefer and freshman Alex Verbitsky in Public Forum Debate, senior Harry Neff in Dramatic Performance, and junior Jackie Lebovits in Poetry Reading. Eight other individuals and pairs received awards as well.
Though many students have heard of the Speech team, some do not know anything at all about speech or what people do there.
In fact, speech is a complicated activity to describe concisely due to its many components. Even the most distinguished and experienced “speechies still have some trouble explaining how the speech team works.
“The Speech and Debate team competes against other schools in ‘Ëœpublic speaking’ events’€but this is a loaded term, team captain Neff said.
“We read poetry, we debate the implications of world news, we make stuff up…speech and debate covers every imaginable form of formalized verbal communication.
Still, one must be committed and willing to set aside some time outside of school to perfect the type of speaking required for a specific competitive event, some of which are memorized, some of which aren’t, and use the pieces to compete.
“We have local tournaments on Saturdays, senior and captain Melanie Rucinski said. “Those of us who don’t do [Extemporaneous events] or Debate prepare pieces for one or two.
The Speech team is comprised of many extremely talented students. As Rucinski notes, it “is basically a combination of future writers, senators, and actors.
It is also believed that being part of the team will often lead students to success later on in live.
“No matter what type of ‘Ëœspeaking’ one does on the speech team, she will glean invaluable skill and experience from it, Neff said.
Though it’s always gratifying to leave a tournament with an award, members of the Speech team do not defining winning simply in terms of coming home with something shiny and metallic in their hands.
“The best thing about Speech team is that it teaches us to feel the best when we get lots of feedback about our performance, instead of only feeling good if we win, Rucinski said.
Whereas one must have good hand-eye coordination to play volleyball or strong legs to run cross-country, even a person with no athletic ability can be on Speech and still say that he or she is on a competitive team.
Not only is the club also easy to be a part of due to flexibility in participation, but it also also offers life skills.
“Public speaking is the number one fear among American adults, and experience in it, in any form, is a distinguished life skill, Neff said. “It can’t hurt.

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