Thank You Seniors: Speech Captains Chaitanya Arora and Anna Hvidsten

Montrose speech team at a tournament

@montrosespeechies on Instagram

Montrose speech team at a tournament

As someone who has been a part of the Montrose speech team since I was in the eighth grade, I’ve seen a lot of dedicated leaders come and go. This year’s captains, seniors Chaitanya Arora and Anna Hvidsten are no different, being some of the most involved and dedicated speech captains I’ve had the pleasure of working with. While both had to begin their speech careers virtually, they undertook the responsibility of being speech captains this year with focus and enthusiasm, making this past speech season one of the most memorable yet. So when asked to write a senior article, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to feature Anna and Chaitanya. This week I sat down for a conversation with them to hear about any insights they may want to share with the Montrose community before they begin the next chapter of their lives. 

I started off like I start every senior feature I’ve written, by asking about their first memories at Montrose. Anna recounted her first and fondest speech memory, sharing: “My first memory from Montrose Speech is a Student Life team practice run by Anna Sheehan and Lucy Stefani ‘21! I literally was still half-concussed at this point, but I decided to go to the practice just for fun, and boy oh boy did I get what I signed up for! When I walked into Founders Hall, I was immediately thrown into a warm-up circle which was louder and more intense than I’d ever experienced before. Then, I was able to relax for a bit as I witnessed the masterpiece that was Emma Barry’s John Mulaney stand-up routine. And finally, we ended off with Freeze Improv. This was unlike any speech practice I had ever attended but brought me to immediately love the loud, hilarious, and somewhat odd Montrose Speech team that became such an integral part of my high school experience.” 

Anna’s first year in speech was also mine, and I can picture exactly the lively and energetic scene she’s describing. Chaitanya continued: “My first memory at Montrose was the first day of school in Mrs. Whitlock’s Genres of Literature class. I only remember it because she told us to stand on our desks and be warriors, and I think I was a little confused and scared at that point. And that’s pretty much all I remember from that day, but those same people who were in that class with me are still my friends to this day, and now it’s become a funny memory for us to look back on.” Anna and Chaitanya’s early memories set the tone for their high school experience: a fun and energetic environment filled with friends they would have for a lifetime. 

When asked about what specifically drew them to the speech team, Chaitanya shared: “I vividly remember signing up for speech in 9th grade and telling Anna Sheehan that I wanted a category with no preparation required. The first practice I went to was actually just a one-on-one practice with Anna Sheehan and Emma Barry ‘22 where I gave them a topic and then they did impromptu speeches for me. I was so amazed by it, and so I’ve done impromptu ever since.” 

Anna immediately said — with laughter: “It is with great sadness that I tell you my brother was a CM Speech boy. Basically, my brother did speech and loved it, so I started with Speech in 7th grade at St. Joe’s and immediately fell in love! From Panel Debate to Duo Interpretation to Impromptu Speaking, I’ve had the opportunity to compete in a wide variety of events and have really enjoyed learning different skills from each one of them these past six years!” 

The famed Holly tournament (@montrosespeechies on Instagram)

Both Chaitanya and Anna have competed in the Impromptu category in speech tournaments since they were freshman and have won many awards doing so. It’s a category that has always impressed me because there is no preparation at all. At this year’s Holly tournament, both Anna and Chaitanya made it to finals, receiving 1st and 7th place, respectively.

Anna Hvidsten (left) and Raine Niebuhr pose for a selfie (@montrosespeechies on Instagram)

I continued by asking about their favorite speech memories from over the years. Anna began: “Oooh… well, definitely not waking up at 5:45 on Saturday mornings. That’s when I look myself in the mirror and honestly question my decision-making skills. Okay, this is lowkey a really hard one because there are so many random moments in a speech day: when Raine will tell the most out of pocket story as they just casually crochet, as if it’s literally the most run-of-the-mill story, or when our little 8th Grade Gang will come running back to the tables after their rounds to tell us all about the absurd number of CM Speech boys that were in their rounds, or when Natalia will promise that her round went horribly (only for me to check Tabroom the next day to find out she nearly made it to finals!), OR the pure joy that beams from everyone’s faces when KyKy (#King) struts into the cafeteria with the huge snack bag! But out of all of the millions of small moments and memories that I’ll take with me next year, my favorite has got to be our team dinner. It was kind of last-minute and we weren’t sure if anyone was going to show up, but most of the team ended up being able to come and we had an amazing time! We had dinner, watched videos of our old speech pieces, prepped for the next tournament, and had so many laughs!! After so many years of Covid social distancing, it was a great opportunity to bring the whole team together stronger than ever before!” 

I can confirm everything Anna said is true, as the speech team dinner was one of the most fun nights I’ve had all year. Chaitanya added: “My favorite speech memories have definitely been all of the in-between moments at tournaments and outside of school. I think because we became captains in the midst of covid, it was a lot different for us to build a team than it was before when we still had all of those in-person moments. A couple times this year, Hvid and I were helping Bea and Gwyn try out impromptu at her house, and it was so fun to come up with prompts for them to do and kind of look back on the things we were taught when we first started impromptu. Also, helping the 8th graders with their speeches was so exciting because they work so hard and have so much potential. I can’t wait to see how far they’ll come in the next few years.” The act of going to tournaments as a team really builds a strong bond, especially in those “in-between” moments that Chaitanya was describing. 

Because they’ve both experienced everything Montrose has to offer, I asked what advice they might have for younger Montrose students. Anna answered: “Oh gosh… it’d probably be not to listen to the advice of seniors because they likely have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m kidding! In all seriousness, I would say the mindset shift that most profoundly changed my Montrose experience was deciding to live in the moment. At Montrose, there will always be ten tests that you could be studying for or three club meetings that you could be preparing for, but if you focus too much on all the things you could or should be doing, you’ll truly miss out on awesome little moments that are happening right in front of you. Staying present in what you’re doing and fighting the urge to start planning or preparing for the next 300 things coming down the line can be really difficult, particularly with the hecticness of the spring, but it truly changed the way I was able to experience classes, study halls, and random hallway conversations these past four years.” 

Chaitanya added: “It wasn’t until junior year that I think our entire grade kind of blended together and wasn’t as divided as the years before. I would definitely say go into high school with the intention of getting to know everyone in your grade, even if you already have your set friend group, because I can honestly say now that I can call all of them my friends and I’ve gotten to know them all in different ways. But I wish our grade had gotten to that point sooner. From planning our own junior journey and creating the “juniah junction,” to making a senior year bucket list and buying our class a pet fish, our grade has become so close these past two years, and so, my biggest piece of advice would be to create those types of memories with your grade. So, yeah, I’d say it’s really important to get to know everyone because that makes your experiences with your whole class so much better.” 

A speech group photo (@montrosespeechies on Instagram)

I asked how they hoped Montrose will remember them in years to come. Chaitanya thought for a moment and said: “I don’t know how to answer this one. Just don’t remember me in a bad way please. And if you ever need another judge for a tournament, because I know we always do, I’ll be back in time for Holly.” Anna, however, knew exactly how to answer this question, saying: “Yikes… I don’t have any real requests for the adjective that goes with “Anna Hvidsten,” but as you guys move up next year and I move out, I do have requests for how I DON’T want to be remembered.” Below is the list that Anna created.


Things I Don’t Want to be Remembered For on the Speech Team:


  • My “Honesty” Speech from an Impromptu final round in sophomore year
  • My inability to be the first person on our team to tournaments
  • The way it’s taken me three years to finally decide on a team sweatshirt design
  • How I’d make you all do warm-ups (that you quite clearly despised) at 8am on Saturday mornings
  • The way your inbox was constantly flooded with neon, emoji-ed emails 


Anna, I can’t make any promises that we won’t remember you for those things, but we will certainly look back on them fondly, remembering you for all of the hilarious moments you gave us. 

I finished by asking them what they are the most excited about for college. Anna, who will be attending Boston College in the fall, said: “Meeting new people and seeking out new opportunities! I can’t wait for all the exciting things that await me for the next four years!” 

Chaitanya, who is attending Syracuse University, answered: “I’m super excited to live somewhere new with a whole new group of people. I don’t know anyone who lives in Syracuse, but I think that could be good to have an opportunity for a blank slate.” 

On behalf of your Montrose speech family, we are so grateful for all of the time and effort you’ve put into making this speech season an unforgettable one. Thank you for always being there for advice, support, and most importantly, the small, “in-between” moments that we’ll remember long after you graduate. Next year’s captains certainly have some big shoes to fill, and we cannot wait to see how you bring your gifts and talents to college! Thank you, Anna and Chaitanya. 

Montrose speech team of many years ago (@montrosespeechies on Instagram)


By Chloe Stefani ‘24, Fashion Editor