Speech team rises to the top as back-to-back state champions

Barbara Collins

More stories from Barbara Collins

Issue 5
May 18, 2018

Students clad in suits are littered throughout the length of the hallway, their voices thick with emotion and intensity as they speak into the wall. Months of practice have prepared the DGS speech team for this particular moment as they prepare to compete in the IHSA Speech State Finals. Hours later, the results are announced and the team celebrates their back-to-back state titles.

“It’s easy to forget how much work you have to put in to be on the stage at the end of the competition. I think that they really proved that they’re resilient and that they’re ready for anything,” Head Speech Coach Justin Matkovich said.

Overall, the team sent 11 out of 14 events to the finals of the state tournament on Feb. 17. The team is the first in DGS history to break every competitor into the state finals.

“Everyone was so genuinely happy to see their friends and teammates succeed. And then we won state. Everyone was just super happy because it was the second year in a row and everyone was excited that all of the hard work we put in ended in such an eventful success,” senior speech team member AJ Janos said.

Results are as follows: senior Faith Barr, seventh place in Original Comedy; senior Himal Koshy, fourth place in Informative Speaking; senior Hayley DeSilva, third place in Oratorical Declamation and third place in Special Occasion Speaking; senior Tessa Lawler, second place in Extemporaneous Speaking; senior Jessica Windischman, second place in Prose Reading; senior Rakiya Johnson, third place in Poetry Reading.

State champions include Lawler in Impromptu Speaking, Windischman and senior Brianna Leys in Dramatic Duet Acting and Leys in Humorous Interpretation.

Leys became the state champion in Humorous Interpretation last year. This makes her a three-time state champion — an accomplishment only a handful people have achieved, according to Matkovich. Leys said that being a 3-peat state champion is a title that still hasn’t settled in for her.

“Winning state individually I think was just adding more sprinkles to the cake, I guess you could say. It wasn’t my goal to win individually, but it was a goal to win as a team,” Leys said.

“Everything she did as a freshman to what she did before state led to that. Her freshman year, she was the room chair for Humorous Interpretation, which is the event she won twice. Her doing that as a freshman built to her wanting to do HI her sophomore year, which led to her being entered; it was just kind of a snowball effect. She obviously did all of the steps that you need to get to where she got to,” Matkovich said.

Leys credits her success to her teammates and coaches.

“I get very overwhelmed and stressed out, and my teammates will say, ‘We’re all going through this, and we all got this, just try your best because remember that we’re all a team and we’re not just individuals,’” Leys said.

An additional event called Performance in the Round consisted of a 15-minute play performed by 13 members of the team. The team’s performance took fifth place.

“What surprised me was state felt more like a regular tournament than anything different; my coaches were very relaxed and trusted us to compete to our best ability. Sure the atmosphere was different being in the Peoria Civic Center, and the competition was fierce, but I didn’t feel the same pressure I did when I was performing at sectionals and regionals. I made it to state and I was just having fun with my team,” Koshy said.

It was a really cool experience to be a part of as a sophomore, especially because I know I have two more years ahead of me where I could potentially help us win state. So it was really inspiring, and it was also really a relief to know that all of my friends that were on the team that worked so hard finally achieved what they wanted to,” sophomore speech team member Sarah Barber said.

The speech team qualified 10 of its members for the national tournament March 3. The tournament will be held this summer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Speech has a rich history of being one of the most successful teams at DGS. The team currently has 18 state titles, according to Matkovich.

“For a lot of teams across the state, the major focus is to get one or two students as far as possible, and sometimes they are able to get their kids very far. But at DGS, our major focus has always been team prosperity and breeding a culture of success,” Koshy said. “I think that’s why our school consistently performs so well.”

“Seeing our team win back-to-back state championships shows me that we were able to create the culture of success that is necessary not only for this year but for the years to come. Hopefully, performing this well will drive underclassmen to achieve the same goals that we have,” Koshy said.