State bound speaksters

Coalers claim third at IHSA Sectional

MAKING THE TRIP to the Illinois High School Association’s state speech contest in Peoria this weekend are (from left) seniors Sonja Minnick and Brenna Kelly, and junior Lauren Phillips. The trio advanced to the state tournament by placing among the top three speakers in their respective categories at the sectional tournament held Feb. 10 at Washington High School. As a team, the Coalers finished the sectional in third place. Courtesy photo

     Coal City High School sent a dozen students to the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) Speech Sectional and after a tough day of competition, three advanced to state.
    Set to make the trip to the state contest in Peoria this weekend are seniors Brenna Kelly and Sonja Minnick, and junior Lauren Phillips.
    Phillips has been a member of the team since freshman year and advanced to the sectional tournament in categories—prose and special occasion speaking. It is the latter that got her a spot at the state tournament.
    Getting a chance to compete in the finals, “means everything to me considering how long I’ve wanted this and how much work I’ve put in throughout the last three years,” said Phillips.
    To prepare for the tournament that, for her, gets underway with a 1:30 p.m. speaking time on Friday, Phillips plans to do a lot of speaking in the days to come.
    She plans to, “perform in front of as many difference audiences as I can to get a wide spectrum of critiques and make sure that I do the best that I can.”
    Minnick and Kelly said they will also put in a lot of extra practice time this week.
    “I’ll probably be down the coaches’ throats trying to make sure that I get all the practice time that I can,” said Kelly, who advanced in informative speaking with her program, “The little things are infinitely more important.”
    Kelly’s first round in the preliminary is set for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
    Minnick will also be reporting in at 4:30 p.m. on Friday for her opening round in original oratory,  a category that finds her speaking about a problem and proposing a solution.
    To prepare for state, Minnick said she’ll put in extra daily practice, but for her the key to success is just having fun.
    “I’m gonna try to have more fun with it because I feel like when I’m having more fun with it, I inadvertently do better,” Minnick said.
    It’s been Minnick’s dream since freshman year to make it to the state tournament and with that accomplished, her next goal is to reach the final round on Saturday.
    “I’m going to do the best that I can and that’s all I can do,” she said.
    Kelly has advanced to the sectional all four years and made it into the tournament finals twice, only to fall short of her goal of getting to state.
    “This is the last thing I needed to cross of my speech bucket list. Over the past four years this has been the main goal I have been working towards so it means more than anything to me,” Kelly said.
    The top three finishers in each category at the sectional advance to the state tournament, and Coal City had five speakers who fell one spot behind a trip to state.
    Earning fourth place finishes at the sectional on Feb. 10 were Yehanatan Figueroa, radio speaking; Nick Berta, oratorical declamation; Cody Rogers, impromptu; Katie Girot, dramatic interpretation; and Phillips, prose.
    Preston Johnson placed fifth for the Coalers in extemporaneous speaking and Beau Wills finished the sectional with a sixth place finish in poetry.
    Also competing at the sectional was the humorous duet acting team of Caitlyn Painter and Zoe Smith.
    As a team the Coalers finished the sectional in third place, just four points behind tournament champion Richwoods and two points under the host team,  Washington.
    Held at the Peoria Civic Center, the two-day state tournament gets underway with preliminary rounds on Friday and Saturday morning. The top speaksters advance to the finals.
    “Going to state is amazing as it is, but breaking finals would be a dream come true,” Phillips said.
    The tournament concludes with an evening awards ceremony on Saturday.
    “Even though it will be challenging, placing at state is my goal,” Kelly said.
Unlike other IHSA sanctioned activities there is no class system in speech, so local students compete against larger schools like Belleville West, Wheaton Warrenville South and Downers Grove South, all speech powerhouses.
Heading into the state finals, Coal City is ranked 27th among the state's top 50 speech teams. The placement determined by the number of regional and sectional finalists, and state qualifiers.