The Vocal Chords of Victory
empowering women, families, and youth-at-risk through improved literacy, increased positive media, and tools for living.
By Steven Zhou: April 2011
Once a year, a college in the State of California experiences a pandemic unlike any other: from before dawn until past dusk for three straight days, over a thousand teenagers in suits invade and take over the campus. Some frantically make conversation with the wall, others flip through boxes of news articles, and still others whisper quietly to each other discussing “who hit who” and “who managed to break”.
Welcome to the California High School Speech Association’s much-anticipated yearly State Championships Tournament. Debaters, interpretive actors, congressmen and women, orators, and many more from around the state gathered from April 15th to 17th this year at San Diego State University, in an attempt to prove their skills. Having previously qualified at local State Qualifying tournaments, these students were, very literally, the best of the best, all competing for the spot of State Champion.
Miramonte High School from Orinda is proud to claim a part in this event, by sending a total of 24 students to the State Tournament. Together with parent volunteers, and of course their talented coach Kristen Plant, these students went on to place in the top positions. Fourteen students made it to semifinals, and six of those went all the way to the final rounds. In the end, top scorers included Cecily Schmidt, 3rd place in Thematic Interpretation, Conor Bean, 3rd place in Student Congress, and Ross Andrews, 4th place in Original Advocacy. Kristen Plant, teacher and coach, proudly commented, “In addition to public speaking skills, students learn to be graceful in victory or defeat, to represent Miramonte with pride, and to enjoy pushing themselves to achieve at the highest level of their craft – to accomplish those feats, while having fun, is to have succeeded!”
Although spending sixteen hours a day dressed in suits and burning in the blazing sun does not exactly sound appealing, the students did in fact have fun, even those that didn’t enjoy major success. In between fierce rounds of competition, students socialized in the food courts, enjoyed the warm weather in the open fields of campus, and cheered on their fellow competitors. At the end of those three days, the reward was a dinner dance. Miramonte rocked the dance floors with their own costumes and theme of “Beach Bums”, where swimsuits, sunglasses, and Hawaiian shirts became the new fashion trend. More than anything, the team behaved as a real family. Lisa Chang, state qualifier for the past three years in a row, remarked, “We've always been a family, but I think our team got even closer this year. For example, the team started devising its own team cheers, such as the introduction to Matt Ward's oratory: ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaah you can be a winner in the game of life!’ Whether someone did well or badly, everyone feels that person's joy or pain and sympathizes. I think this camaraderie makes our team different. We always carry so much energy and excitement that other teams notice us.”
In the Acalanes High School District, Miramonte High boasts the only speech program. Some schools, like rival school Campolindo High in Moraga, have started their own clubs, but only time will tell if these fledging communities will gain the support needed to rocket to success. As Miramonte’s program is spectacular in its ability to incorporate even those that suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking), the coaches and the students at the school love to welcome newcomers into the team. The excitement continues to grow. As more people join, the tradition gets stronger each year.
Steven Zhou, a junior at Miramonte, looks forward to writing for the real world (rather than AP tests), and using it to improve communication skills.
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