SNL: Speech Now Live

The Cannon Falls Speech team adapts to a virtual season, and though it has been a bumpy ride, they have remained their goofy, optimistic selves.


Nathan Baszuro

Emma Watson, along with the other captains, leads the speech team in masked and socially distanced warmups.

Jumping into the season, the Cannon Falls Speech Team had no doubts about having to overcome a number of obstacles that came with having a virtual season. After several practices and as much preparation as they could possibly do, including a period of time designated to fiddle around with the new platform the team would be using for tournaments, Cannon Falls speechies figured they were as prepared as they could be for the first virtual tournaments. Each speaker survived the first few tournaments only encountering a few minor bumps and bruises. As the tab team and participants began the first round of each tournament, it became clear that they still had a bit of time before they fully adjusted into a new rhythm.

Senior Isaiah Wildenberg gives his informative speech in front of and behind a screen. (Nathan Baszuro)

Doing their best to preserve some normalcy this season, Cannon Falls Speechies begin the day the way Cannon Falls Speechies always have. Captains lead an enthusiastic set of warmups, and Co-head Coach Winget gives the rundown on the tournament’s things-to-know and schedule. Each speaker then splits off into their respective rooms, which is new to the speechie routine, and logs onto the live tournament. A few speakers are still messing with camera angles and adapting to microphone and webcam issues, but other than that, this part of preparation for the tournament is a breeze due to the experience from the previous weekends. Contrarily, draw categories, which are the first to dive into round one, always seem to hit a few roadblocks at the start. Participants in these categories are incredibly patient and cooperative as they stumble through the first draws and prep times. By the time round 2 rolls around, the road for the rest of the tournament is paved fairly smooth.

One of the biggest adjustments for speechies is the lack of “camp,” which was the gathering area for those who were in between rounds. Participants mingled with peers from their own school as well as others. Instead, they are now limited to a few hallways and classrooms, and are required to social distance and mask up as they mingle. Senior Captain Emma Watson can’t say she is terribly fond of socially distancing, and commented, “It definitely sucks having to be farther away from people. I miss interacting with other schools. It’s something that nobody has fully adapted to and we have to catch ourselves before we give each other a celebratory hug.” Throughout the ups and downs of navigating a virtual season, the Cannon Falls Speech Team has remained constructive and adaptable.

At the end of the day, the team holds a private awards ceremony. Even though it no longer takes place in the empowering and climactic walls of an auditorium, the ceremony has not been abandoned. The optimistic speechies spaciously gather in the Cannon Falls High School’s IMC to play a goofy game of charades just before announcing the placings of each finalist and the team sweepstakes. By this time of day during COVID-less speech seasons, all that are left on the awards table in the center of the stage are the team sweepstakes trophies. John Marshall usually hands out particularly unique trophies, which take the shape of a glittery high heeled shoe — unfortunately, the team must continue without these masterpieces. This year, from the comfort of their home school, the Cannon Falls Speech Team graciously applauds for their fellow teammates.