Montrose Speech Team Competes at States over Zoom

The Montrose Speech team worked hard all year. We all felt the disappointment when social distancing guidelines prevented us from participating in our State Final tournament on April 4. Nine Montrosians qualified for states this year and were hoping the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League (MSDL) would provide us with the anticipated end-of-year tournament. Luckily, States were able to take place on May 23-24… over Zoom! Best of all, the MSDL removed all qualification requirements, allowing anyone the opportunity to take on the challenge of virtual States.

Before the virtual tournament began, our team did our traditional warm-ups, consisting of tongue twisters and enthusiasm boosters, over Zoom. This was a rather impressive accomplishment, as these warmups involve chanting in unison. We asked our teammates what felt different about completing a speech tournament from home. “It feels fake,” said Chloe Stefani ‘24. “Normally we get up so early and we drive all the way there, but we just logged on to a call.” A regular tournament starts at 7:30 AM, and that’s not counting the time it takes to get there. For States, we didn’t have to attend our team warmup zoom until 10 AM. Anna Hvidsten ‘23 offered an optimistic pre-tournament outlook: “You know, we’ll just see how it goes.”

Another factor that we anticipated would be different was our capacity for volume. “I think we’re going to be more hesitant about being loud,” said Viviana Niebuhr ‘23. This prediction was not unfounded. We’re used to reaching scary heights of volume during our speeches for dramatic effect. Once the tournament officially began, many competitors had to find remote parts of their house to perform in as they didn’t want family members to hear them.

The actual rounds were incredibly different from the normal tournament format. Usually, we stand in front of a classroom with five competitors and one judge to give our speech. This time, we performed our pieces in a Zoom breakout room with just the judge. As a result, we didn’t see any other speeches. But this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Speech Coach Chiodini said, “I was amazed at how organized and streamlined everything was. Speech tournaments are already a coordination nightmare and I was stunned not only that the MSDL dared to go online, but that they succeeded! Everything from waiting rooms to breakout rooms to timing Radio Broadcasting preparation — it was incredible how much they had thought through.” Anna Hvidsten ‘23 reflected on the online format: “It was a lot less intimidating. Usually you walk in a room and everyone is like ‘urg’ but here, the most intimidating guy is like, ‘Can you hear me? My air pods…hello?’” 

The Montrose Speech team didn’t let the physical distance get in the way of team traditions. In addition to our pre-tournament warmups, we set up an ongoing Zoom meeting where we could hang out between rounds. This might have been the most heart-warming aspect of the first tournament day, as we are used to meeting at a cafeteria table in between speaking rounds to chat, play games, pretend to do homework, and eat inordinate amounts of junk food. We may not have been able to share pretzels and Cheez-Itz over Zoom, but it was great to hear each other’s quarantine stories and share laughs with our teammates.

Finally, on the second day of the State Finals, we watched a live-streamed awards ceremony. Seven Montrosians were honored, with Maevis Fahey ‘21 earning 5th in Extemporaneous Speaking and Anna Sheehan ‘21 making it to the semi-finals in Impromptu Speaking. Lucy Stefani ‘21, Anna Sheehan ‘21, Caroline Reichard ‘21, Viviana Niebuhr ‘23, Chloe Stefani ‘24, and Loraine Niebuhr ‘24 receiving 5th in Multiple Reading for our performance of a condensed version of the movie Shrek. Though there were only five entries in this event, this fifth place meant a great deal. It meant that we practiced daily for a week ahead of the tournament and that we dared to give a live performance over Zoom from our separate homes. We celebrate that we were only one of five groups to attempt — and succeed at — this feat.

It’s hard to bid the 2019-2020 Speech season goodbye. Not only is it the end to an incredible year of team spirit and impactful memories, but it also marks our farewell to Coach Chiodini, our incredible coach for the past two years. Coach Chiodini offered some parting words to her team: “This team has always been galvanized not by glory or because some amazing faculty member is encouraging them to take part, but because the girls themselves love to perform, and to be creative together. Montrose speech girls are incredible thespians, but more importantly, they are lovers of the community, the speech jargon, the inside jokes, and the fun that comes from competing together. I was frankly humbled to be the simple, logistic support system of a team that really took care of itself, and taught me a little something about passion.”

So farewell, Speech season 2019-2020, and thank you, MSDL, for providing the State

Finals which gave this year its well-earned completion. And of course, a heartfelt thank you and bon voyage to Coach Chiodini.

Lucy Stefani ’21, Arts & Entertainment Editor and

Anna Sheehan ’21, Faith Editor

Also known as our stellar and reelected Speech Captains!,