Speaking from the heart

On Saturday, April 17, the Cannon Falls Speech Team competed in their Section Tournament.


Aizlynn Thim

Captains Kressin Hartl, Emma Watson, Conor Salmonson, Tristin Qualey, Emma Shepersky, and Aizlynn Thim posed for a selfie from the comfort of their homes.

Following what Coach Holly Winget called the “rampant surge” of COVID cases hit the high school, the entire speech team was forced to compete in the Section Tournament from their homes. This was merely one of many roadblocks the team faced throughout the season, and they handled it how they know best: by cheering each other on.

After nearly everything about the speech season was adjusted to a virtual system back in November of 2020, the CF Speech Team tapped into their abundance of team spirit to tackle yet another part of their standard pre-pandemic routine now in a virtual manner. Warmups have been a sacred tradition of Saturday morning speech tournaments for years, so there was no question that it was necessary to at least try to overcome the limitations, which they sought to do via Zoom. However, this wasn’t nearly as graceful as the team would have hoped. Captain Emma Watson commented, “Well, everyone trying to speak at once electronically went how you would expect: chaotic.” 

Despite freezes, lags, and generally unsynchronized video and audio throughout the endeavor, speechies managed to make it through their ritual of chants and songs, which was no surprise considering these students have mastered the art of adapting to less than ideal situations. While most might have described the team meeting as an utter disaster, these bright faces simply laughed and joked through it all. Then, these boys and girls, who have been talking to walls and goofing off with each other for years now, put on their most determined faces and headed into the Section 1A Tournament.

During post-season tournaments, the pressure is on for speakers to give their top-tier performances in hopes of advancing into the final round. This past Saturday, 23 out of 25 participating CF speechies competed in finals. “Our team is amazing, I sent our several ‘cheerleading’ posts but it’s testimony to the awesomeness of the CF speechies and community that they got their performance spaces ready and they did it,” expressed Coach Winget. The team was only able to communicate with their coaches over Zoom on Saturday, which means they were unable to let out any rants or receive any pep talks as they normally would. 

The intense day ended with a Zoom awards ceremony hosted by Coach Winget. Speakers waited in a heavy heat of anticipation for their name to be called and to find out if they would be moving on to the final tournament of the season: State. Out of six finalists, only the top three award winners in each section continue on. 

In sixth place, Cannon Falls had Kayley Frenette in Discussion and Kendahl Zimmerman and Bowen Maki in Duo Interpretation. Fifth place award winners were Ava Brokate in Extemporaneous Reading, Cannon Quade in Humorous, and Sara Auger in Storytelling. Fourth place award winners were Ashton Beyer in Discussion, Aubry Conway in Extemporaneous Reading, Tristin Qualey in Prose, and Lauren Ritz in Storytelling. Moving on to the State Tournament after placing third are Meagan Pedersen in Creative Expression, Grace Miller in Extemporaneous Reading, Connor Loeschke in Great Speeches, Kressin Hartl in Humorous, Matthew Giese in Informative, and Jessica Baszuro in Prose. Also moving on to the State tournament, but after placing second are Kendall Lawless in Drama, Lydia Pedersen in Extemporaneous Speaking, Angel Zheng in Great Speeches, and Bianca Caputo in Informative. Section 1A champions from Cannon Falls included Teagan Strecker in Discussion, Aizlynn Thim in Extemporaneous Reading, Emma Watson in Humorous, and Conor Salmonson in Poetry.

Throughout everything the CF Speech Team has been thrown, they have maintained the same dysfunctional-family-like atmosphere that they’ve always had. Cannon Falls was named Section 1A champion, proving that COVID-19 has nothing on a team packed with an enormous amount of love, a handful of giggles, and plenty of dedication.