STATE BOUND SPEAKSTERS from Coal City High School are (front from left) four-time state qualifier Zackary Landers and two-time state qualifiers Jackie McCollough and Billy Fatigante. Andrew Elledge and Uxmar Torres, in row two, are headed to the state tournament for the first time. The five speech team members, along with Casey Zelko (not pictured) will compete for a medal this weekend in Peoria.
Ann Gill Editor
Going into last weekend's sectional speech meet, Zackary Landers had a good feeling he'd be making another trip to the state tournament.
Landers had every right to be confident. The Coal City High School senior had claimed the regional title a week earlier, netted multiple tournament victories during the season and hadn't missed the state competition since his freshman year.
Landers finished the sectional with first place medals in both extemporaneous and impromptu speaking. He is one of six Coaler speaksters headed to the state tournament this weekend in Peoria. Also advancing are Jackie McCollough and Billy Fatigante, two-time state qualifiers in humorous duet acting, Uxmar Torres in poetry reading, Casey Zelko in original oratory and Andrew Elledge who will team with McCollough in dramatic duet acting (DDA).
As a four-time state qualifier, Landers knows he and his teammates are up against some tough competition.
"The suburban schools are always strong," said Landers.
Unlike other Illinois High School Association (IHSA) sanctioned activities, there is no class system in speech, so the local students compete against larger schools such as Naperville's Nequa Valley, Wheaton Warrenville, Glenbard West and Downers Grove North and South, all speech powerhouses.
Landers' goal is to finish in the top three in both of his events.
McCollough and Fatigante are looking to improve on last year's placement; both want to make the finals and along the way Fatigante just wants to, "make people laugh."
Elledge and McCollough, juniors at CCHS, are the first Coalers to make it to the state tournament in DDA. They will perform A Siberian Romance, a routine that earned them a third place finish at the sectional and first in the regional.
Torres, a junior, is just the second Coaler to compete in poetry at the state meet. The other state poetry qualifier was his sister back in 2010.
"At the start of the season my goal was to make it to state, after the regional and sectional my goal was elevated and I want to place at state," said Torres.
Speaksters are judged in a variety of areas from voice quality and tone to eye contact and overall presentation.
"I just plan to go out there and give it my all," Fatigante said.
Each state qualifier will participate in two rounds (one each on Friday and Saturday) and the top speaksters advance to the finals Saturday afternoon.
The winners will be announced late Saturday, "and we want to be the last ones up on the stage," McCollough said.