The 2020 Minnesota State High School League State Speech Tournament was wiped out due to COVID. The Chanhassen speech team returned to the meet in 2021 with a thunderous response.
Chanhassen had 11 students at the state tournament with five finalists and three state champions on April 23.
The champions were Lauren Manna (Informative Speaking), Liv Schaefer (Discussion) and Trevyn Pannhoff (Serious Prose). Ella Schoeberl and Amy Laabs were also named runner-up in Storytelling and Great Speeches.
1 There are many different categories to choose from with high school speech. How did you choose where to take your words?
Manna: I have spent two out of my three years on the Chanhassen Speech Team in the category of dramatic interpretation. This was where I felt most comfortable, because it fell under the 'acting' umbrella, and is most similar to theater. I never imagined myself in a category other than drama, and certainly not informative speaking, simply because it wasn’t 'my thing.' I couldn’t have been more wrong. This year, I decided to jump headfirst into Info because I wanted the opportunity to maybe not retell someone’s story, but to create my own. By being able to choose my own topic, write my own speech, and add-in my own humor, I feel that I was able to show the speech community a little bit more of me.
Pannhoff: Really what put me into Prose was my amazing coach, James Fedje, who helped me achieve things I could have never on my own. I’m in Prose because it's something that just really suits me; it gives me an opportunity to express myself and really plays to my strengths in acting and being an emotionally revealing person.
Schaefer: I've done a bit more category hopping than most of my fellow teammates, but I firmly believe I found the best category for me. As a captain of both the overall speech team and the Discussion team, it was always important to me that my teammates felt supported to speak about topics that were meaningful to them. Discussion offers me that opportunity every single round. I have competed in debate for four years, so Discussion provided me the perfect avenue to put my critical thinking skills into a collaborative, constructive format!
2 It looked different. It probably felt different at times. But what would you call the 2021 speech season, and why?
Schaefer: The 2021 speech season is a testament to the dedication, ingenuity, and compassion of Minnesota's speech competitors. Some of our traditions had to be modified to ensure everyone was safe and adhering to COVID guidelines, but that didn't make them any less special. We put in a lot of effort to make sure our teammates were able to manage any technical difficulties and could navigate all the ups and downs of virtual competition. Our team and state competitors are well-prepared for Nationals this summer!
Manna: The very best way I can describe the 2021 speech season is exceptional. It was exceptional in every single way, and certainly not always in a positive light. As a team, we dealt with losing our in-person season: We couldn’t ride the bus together every morning, we couldn’t perform for live audiences, and we couldn’t clap loud enough for the whole gym/auditorium to hear when a team member won their category. But what I found most exceptional was how unbelievably resilient this team was. As one of two captains, I found it difficult to remain a fearless leader at times, but watching this team adapt, and thrive in a new environment not only bettered me as a leader, but as a person. Yes, it was different, but some things will never change: We laughed between rounds, then showed up to them just in the nick of time. We still cheered loud when our teammates were successful. We did our silly warm-ups, and we supported each other in every sense of the word. In an exceptional year, we remained an exceptional team.
Pannhoff: Most of all I would call this speech season a success. While there were many bumps along the way, by the end of the season I think everyone was performing at the same level as any other season. With the new online format I got to see some cool and new speeches that I otherwise would have never seen if speech were in-person this year.
3 What was the moment like when you were named state champions?
Pannhoff: Honestly, one of the happiest moments of life, and I felt so lucky to get a state title as a junior. How exactly I found out is kind of a funny story. Our team was all huddled in a room watching the awards live-streamed and as my category came up the announcer said I got third, which at first was awesome, but then I noticed one of my coaches ran out of the room to call someone. She came back in about five minutes later and said, 'so there was a mess up in two categories, and one of them is Prose.' At this moment I swear everyone went silent and I think my heart stopped and then she said, 'our third place is actually the Prose state champion!' Everyone exploded and it was so exciting and shocking and it was just crazy. I feel really honored and lucky to be a state champion.
Schaefer: The moment I found out I was the state champion in Discussion was probably the best representation of just how unique this season was. I had to head home before the awards ceremony, so a teammate FaceTimed me so I could 'watch' with everyone else. Though I wasn't able to be in-person with Lauren or my other teammates, when they announced my name, I felt just as supported and celebrated as ever. The Chanhassen Speech Team is a magical place. Thank you to everyone, especially our novices, who will be continuing on the legacy of this team! I wish you the best of luck.
Manna: I wish I could explain this moment better, but I’m pretty sure I blacked out when it happened. I remember starting to get nervous around fourth place. My heart was beating so loud that I could barely hear the announcer above it. When I heard my name called as the state champion, I felt the weight of a year of online school, online speech, worry, doubt, and disbelief in myself fall off of my shoulders. It was never about winning, though, because in that moment I realized that my message had spoken to people. They had considered my words, and perhaps even learned something. That was the biggest win to me.