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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


Speech takes home second place state trophy

Will Elliott
The speech team competed in Peoria, IL and ended up taking home second place.

The DGS speech team talked their way into a second place finish at the IHSA state speech tournament on Feb. 17. The tournament was hosted in Peoria, IL at the Peoria Civic Center and took place over the course of two days. Seven members of the team placed at the state tournament, which paved the way for the overall second place finish.

The seven students that placed were Sabrina Crowley, Sebastian Blanco, Juliana Conyer, Maija Flannery, Layla Orozco, Naomi Yong and Gianna Caponigro. Caponigro, who competed at state for the first time, took home first place for her performance in Humorous Interpretation.

“This year it was so much fun just because I had a brand-new piece, and I was really excited to go up against other people who I hadn’t competed against before and see how they were doing and how I was doing; like different scripts, different characters and different styles of performing I think was really amazing to see. Just thinking about my sophomore year, I never would have pictured myself being at state, let alone champing at state, so it was really awesome,” Caponigro said.

Leading up to state, Caponigro placed second at the IHSA regional competition and first at IHSA sectionals. Her script, “How to Kiss a Girl,” brought out laughter and smiles from the audience, leading to her big win.

“I changed my script a couple of times before going to state, but this one is by far my favorite. It’s basically about this guy named Ken who is really nervous about going on his first date, and he asks his phone a bunch of different things, which is kind of like Siri; she comes up with a bunch of figures that gives Ken different pieces of advice. At the end he goes on his date, and it is successful,” Caponigro said.

Humorous Interpretation is just one event that DGS placed well in at state. Other events included Radio Speaking, Humorous Duet Acting, Dramatic Duet Acting, Impromptu Speaking, Informative Speaking, Oratorical Declamation and Poetry Reading. Each member of the team works to perfect the skills needed for their event leading up to state. Caponigro and the rest of the team are coached by English teacher Justin Matkovich.

“It felt great; I never go to state expecting to win or expecting a medal. It’s nice when it happens, but I think so much about going down
to state is about having the kids have a good experience and whether it is us doing extremely well or us having a not as successful of a tournament, in terms of team rank. The thing I always focus on is how the students are going to react to how they do. I have never been to a state tournament where every kid I sent won, and dealing with that can be hard at times. Everyone who goes to state wants to win; it’s why you go,” Matkovich said.

Another big winner at state was Senior Naomi Yong, who placed fifth in Oratorical Declamation and sixth in Informative Speaking. This was Yong’s second time at state.

“My entire career with speech, I was really hoping I would be up on that stage, and I never thought it would happen to me. So just being able to be in that round competing with other people, seeing my name on the poster, was really great,” Yong said.

Yong’s informative speech was about bamboo and it’s many uses. For her fifth place finish in Oratorical Declamation, Yong talked about vulnerability. While students have their own motivations, Matkovitch shared what drove him as a coach to get to State.

“I don’t feel like there’s this pressure on me to go to state and to win; I don’t think it is really about me or the rest of the coaches.
What motivates me is making sure that the kids have success, and that the kids do well and are happy with what they did. You can never control what judges think or want but you can control how kids prepare,” Matkovich said.

The speech team is now preparing for the National Speech and Debate Tournament. To qualify for nationals, they have to place in the top three at their next competition, which is on March 2. If they were to qualify at this level, they will compete in Des Moines, IA on June 15-22.

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