Members of the Skowhegan Area High School speech team gather Thursday with their state championship trophy at the school auditorium. In front, from left: Carly McCabe, Carolyn Snowman and Ella Conway. In second row, from left: Lizzy Steeves, Zuzu Johnson, Annah Perkins and Emma Smith. Behind the trophy, from left: Emily Lyman, Michael Reynolds and Sophie Wheeler. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Three Waterville Senior High School students have earned the right to compete virtually in the National Speech & Debate Association Tournament in June after qualifying for the event last month, while the Skowhegan Area High School team won the state championship in a season that saw it go undefeated.

The Waterville students competed virtually March 27 in the association’s national qualifying tournament with students from all over Maine and will represent the state at the nationals, according to their coach, Gayle Giguere, Waterville High’s drama director and chair of the English Department.

The national competition is a weeklong event, to be held from June 16 through 19.

“I am so proud of them,” Giguere said Wednesday of her team members. “I was overwhelmed with joy at their work ethic and their resilience. They just kept at it. They were really good team players and very supportive of one another — a lot of positive energy.”

Colette Carillo Contributed photo

Waterville’s team captain, Colette Carrillo, a junior, will compete in the humorous interpretation category at the nationals, performing the piece, “1-800,” by Joseph Sorrentino.

“Being on the speech team has been a wonderful experience, and it is one of the clubs that I am most involved in and the most passionate about,” said Corrillo, 17. “I think that it gives my peers and I the opportunity to hear stories and perspectives we wouldn’t normally get to hear, think critically about our performances and discover new pieces of literature that we may want to explore more thoroughly in the future.”

For Corrillo, theater and music have been lifelong passions, and she loves to write and analyze stories and practice public speaking. She said she would enjoy pursuing a career in education, with a focus in anthropology or literature and perhaps a minor in the performing arts.

“I guess my main hope is to help people around me be able to tell and-or analyze stories, whether they be fictional or not.”

Waterville Senior High School Principal Brian Laramee said Waterville’s eight-member speech team won runner-up at the  State Forensic Competition on Feb. 27. The top five of 22 teams were awarded trophies for speech, with Skowhegan Area High School scoring 40 points and winning first place in the state contest. Waterville had 36 points; Cape Elizabeth, 29; Lawrence High School in Fairfield, 22; and Falmouth, 9.

The Waterville speech team later won the Sweeps Award for highest point count at the March 27 qualifiers tournament.

Skowhegan Area High School team captains Sophie Wheeler and Lizzy Steeves said their team, composed of about 10 students, did well, with each member placing in the top three in at least one category.

“What was really cool was that everybody seemed to improve a lot throughout the season,” Steeves said. “If they were starting off the season not doing great, they ended up doing a lot better at the state meet, which was really cool to see.”

Steeves placed first in the Humorous Interpretation category, with a performance called “How to Be a Writer.” She also placed second in the Storytelling category, performing ‘The Nightingale,” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Her co-captain, Wheeler, placed second in Oral Interpretation of Literature, speaking about the poem “Fork” by Jeffrey Harrison and “Eleven,” a short story by Sandra Cisneros. She also placed fourth in the Humorous Interpretation category with a performance of “The Avenging Flight Attendant of Doom.”

The team’s adviser, Maura Smith, said the season ends for the Skowhegan team with states. Most team members participate in other activities and some have jobs.

“By the time the Maine speech season ends,” Smith said, “students are ready to move on to spring sports, the one-act play and other activities.”

Waterville High’s speech and debate team was revived in 2017 after having been dormant since the 1980s, according to Laramee. He said Waterville graduate Chris Corbett gave a sizable donation to restart the team in honor of his late brother, Kevin Corbett, a 1973 Waterville graduate who died in 2017. The donation from Corbett’s family and friends allows students to get experience in speech and debate, much like Kevin Corbett did, according to Laramee.

“Kevin Corbett was an active member of many clubs and organizations, but his true passion was debate, participating as a four year member on Waterville’s state-winning debate team,” Laramee wrote in an email. “Kevin’s experiences in debate may have helped propel him from Waterville High School, to Cornell University, to Boston University School of Law and ultimately into an over 30 year law career.”

Laramee said Waterville’s team not only has gained experience, it has excelled in the short time it has been competing.

“This year we experienced team success and individual success, with many individual championships, a team second place finish at States, the team winning the National Qualifying Sweeps, three students qualifying for Nationals, and one student selected as a Nationals alternate,” he wrote. “I am so proud of our team, and very thankful for the wonderful donation that made this opportunity possible for our students and our school.”

Alice Willette Contributed photo

Contacted Wednesday about whether the public may view the nationals virtually, Matt Bopes, membership assistant at the National Speech & Debate Association, based in Des Moines, Iowa, wrote in an email that preliminary rounds at the national tournament will be limited to competitors and judges to protect participants’ privacy and security from online disruption.

“In late elimination rounds, we will do our best to stream rounds to YouTube,” he said. “Final round observers may go to live.speechanddebate.org to watch via live streaming.”

Freshman Alice Willette will compete at the nationals in the Dramatic Interpretation category, and sophomore Carolyn Kinney will compete in Informational Speaking. Sophomore Alejandra Garcia-Pollis, will serve as the alternate.

Willette, 15, said she plans to perform a piece from the book “Fracture,” by Megan Miranda.

Willette said involvement in speech and competing in the state competition have been rewarding.

“It was exciting when anyone on the team placed — not just myself,” she said.

Willette said she plans to go into computer programming after she graduates.

Carolyn Kinney Contributed photo

Kinney, 16, said she participated at the state competition in the category of Informative Speaking, performing a self-written piece called “Autoimmune Diseases.”

“After the initial educational portion, it then focuses in on my life with Alopecia,” Kinney said. “Having the opportunity to compete with Waterville’s speech team has been such a fantastic experience. They’re all very encouraging and kind individuals. It’s truly an honor to be a part of it.”

Kinney said she hopes to go into the legal field after finishing her education.

“Special thanks to my friends, family and Ms. Giguere, for being a driving force behind sharing my story,” she said. ” I’m so grateful and am super excited to take on the opportunity of competing at nationals.”

The Skowhegan senior co-captains both said being a part of this group has helped them gain confidence and plan out what they would like to do after graduating later this spring.

Wheeler said she plans to attend Bates College in Lewiston. Steeves has not decided where she will attend college, but said she would like to pursue law or theater.

“This team has helped me a lot,” Wheeler said. “I plan to become a lawyer, which involves a lot of public speaking. It’s been cool for us this year, since we’re the only team so far that’s had a state championship in our school.”


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