SKOWHEGAN — Teamwork and the promise of gelato.
That was the unlikely combination that led the Skowhegan Area High School speech team to a state speech and debate championship Saturday in Brunswick. The annual event, sponsored by Maine Forensic Association and the Maine Principals Association, focuses on oration, debate and public speaking among participating high school students.
The win was followed by a sweet treat, students said.
“Prior to arriving at Brunswick High School, Ms. Smith told us that if we won first place that she would treat us all to gelato after the tournament,” said team member Sarah Brooker, a senior from Norridgewock. “She didn’t think we would win so she didn’t think she would have to pay for it. However, we did win, and we were all treated to a nice round of gelato after the tournament.”
Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream.
For speech and drama teacher Maura Smith, it was lucky that there is a Gelato Fiasco location in Brunswick. She wouldn’t say how much it cost her to buy the gelatos for all 15 members of the speech team, but was glad she found the shop in Brunswick.
“At first I said frozen yogurt, then I remembered about the Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick,” she said. “We don’t have a gelato place around here, so I thought it would be an extra special treat.”
Smith said the tournament takes students from all over the state to compete in 13 different categories, from dramatic and humorous interpretation to prose and poetry and original pieces performed before a panel of judges. The Skowhegan team competed in five tournaments leading up to the state finals, which included 30 teams.
Students compete individually to win points that add up to the team total. A plaque is given to the winning school, and ribbons, medals and trophies are handed out to individual students.
“We take the importance of the spoken word very seriously,” said Smith, the high school’s theater director and an English teacher. “When we look at students and they go on to higher education, forensic counts, whether it’s speech or debate. It plays a huge role in their success later. Colleges also look at that as factors in their acceptance.”
Lily Weston, a senior from Skowhegan, said she competed in story telling and dramatic interpretation to gain overall points for the team. Weston read the story “The Falls! The Falls!” by Pete Seeger. For her dramatic piece, she read from the novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden.
“It’s definitely an incredible feeling,” she said of winning the state title. “Honestly, I didn’t think that we could do it. I think we all shared a certain level of being nervous, and I think that’s what drives us even further to be our best.”
Sarah Brooker said she competed in informative speaking, where the student writes her own speech — she chose to write about the history of the English language — and extemporaneous speaking, in which the student is presented with a question 30 minutes prior to presenting and must write a fact-based speech and memorize it before performing it.
Her topics were Syria, Russia, the European Union and ethnopopulism, or political grouping based on a shared identity.
“I’m very glad that we won the state championship,” Brooker said. “But I’m prouder of the fact that my points contributed to the team’s score.”
Doug Harlow — 612-2367