State-bound speakers


Zachary Gemma and Roman Shaheen qualifying for states

Hundreds of students dressed in suits and blazers sit packed in a dimly lit auditorium, hoping to hear their name called. This is a weekly occurrence for juniors Zachary Gemma and Roman Shaheen as they have spent their Saturdays for the past three years at Speech and Debate tournaments. Though they have been a part of this activity for their entire high school experience, this year things really started looking up. 

Speech and Debate is an after school club that has been around for decades. There are two different sections: Speech and Debate. Gemma and Shaheen participate in Speech, where students memorize and block different performance pieces. They then compete against other students from around Ohio at tournaments on Saturdays. 

“There are many different categories of speech, me and Roman are in duo. Duo is a two person act with no props at the beginning of the season. First we pick a piece (this year we picked a comedy about Shakespeare), then we memorize the piece, add accents, and choreography to go with it,” Gemma said. “We compete against other teams with different pieces and just hope ours is better.”

Gemma and Shaheen are ranked second in the state. They have come a long way since last year, in which COVID-19 forced the activity to go totally virtual.They were not able to bring out their emotions the way they wanted to by using gestures with them.

“It was all online last year, now we are back in person which is nice because it is difficult to do online because you have to project more and it is hard for judges to pick up your emotions there and for our category duo interpretations there are a lot of movements and settleties that connect in a way to perform and you can not truly pick that up unless you are in person,” Shaheen said. 

Preparing for speech is a big thing that comes into speech and debate. There is a lot of creativity, and practice that ties into it. 

“We know each year, we learn more about what to do and what to input into our piece by watching what other people do, so now we are getting good, we are learning what to put in it and the coaches are helping us more and we are practicing more than what the coaches can see,” Shaheen said. 

Memorizing the speech is another part of the preparation process. Many would think there is no possible way for people to remember a speech around ten minutes long, but for Shaheen and Gemma, they make it work.

“There really is not a good way to memorize the speech it gets easier to memorize the words when you have motions to go along with them but then the struggle of remembering the choreography arises, so you’ve just kinda gotta practice over and over again until your living and breathing that piece every Saturday,” Gemma said. 

Getting ready for a speech is one thing, but presenting is a whole different level. There are feelings of anxiety, stress and many other emotions that go on inside a speaker’s head when they know they are about to present in front of many people. 

Gemma, however, is relaxed and ready for anything to be thrown at him. 

“My mind is usually kinda blank while presenting, except for one part where I jump over Roman and I just kinda hope I don’t hit him,” Gemma said.

Although there is a lot of preparation and work for the tournaments, there are great outcomes that come with them. These two boys are feeling great about this season and showing the Eagle pride by holding the second place spot in the whole state of Ohio. 

“It feels really really great honestly, after the debacle of last year and not doing well, it feels good to be on top this season, I am really proud of us,” Shaheen said. 

Gemma is also excited about being number two in the state and he feels that it relieves a lot of stress that they had at the beginning of the season. 

“It feels pretty darn good me and Roman are one of the five teams that have a bid in the state so we do not have to compete for our spot in the state competition,” Gemma said. “We just got to go, which is really exciting and eliminates a lot of stress. Now we just have to prepare for states and the national qualifying competition.” 

While the season is coming to an end, these boys are ready to put on a show and give it their all at State.

Congratulations to 11 speech and debate tournament last Saturday, Greg Giavasis, Caris Lantz, Brody Fravel, Zachary Gemma, Roman Shaheen, Rachel Gourtney, Lauren Nieporte, Bradley Mull, Claire Caldwell, Belle Vogul and alternate Shishir Tallada.