HARRISBURG, Ill. (April 22, 2020) – Although classes have resumed online and in various remote formats for college students, what hasn’t resumed are extracurricular activities. For the undefeated Southeastern Illinois College Forensic Falcons, this means they were denied the opportunity to compete for a national title at the annual Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Our students have worked so hard throughout this season with the ultimate goal of crushing the competition at nationals after breaking multiple records during their regular season,” said coach Paul Cummins. “Our freshmen will have an opportunity to try again next year, but for many of our sophomores, this means the end of their competitive speech careers.”
Seven sophomores have ended their speech season early, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacob Rice of Marion joined the team as a freshman with no prior speech experience. He excelled this year at state competition earning the title of state champion in parliamentary debate (with partner William Pugsley) and taking second place in extemporaneous speaking, fifth place in the open division (against university participants) in extemporaneous speaking, and third in international public debate (IPDA).
As a pre-medicine major, this fall he’s considering Southern Illinois University-Carbondale to major in physiology or the University of Illinois for molecular and cellular biology, but his speech days will be over to focus on anticipated tougher upper level classes.
“I am so glad I decided to join the speech team… It’s become beyond a team and more like a family … It was a great way for me to get involved in the school, and also has taught me so many life lessons beyond just speaking,” said Rice. “I have met so many wonderful people from all across the nation, and even international students from other teams have made lasting relationships with my teammates that will not end at just competing!”
Former home-schooler Tiffany Turner of Galatia has excelled in her events this year at state earning state champion in program oral interpretation, second in poetry interpretation, and fifth in prose interpretation. She also competed in persuasion.
“As any ‘speechie’ could tell you, your pieces become your baby and it’s hard to pick a favorite… But if I had to choose I’d say my favorite piece I had this season was my poetry,” said Turner. “I was Mother Nature, and I got to do some pretty beautiful blocking while talking about how women and nature are connected. It was very abstract and was totally up my alley!”
Next year, Turner plans to continue her studies at a four-year university toward her career goal of becoming a forensic scientist.
A Harrisburg native and graduate of Harrisburg High School, Christian Murray forged his path in Impromptu, Debate, Prose and Informative Speaking.
“My favorite event was debate because it added another level of complexity, it was more competitive, and it made you think more,” expressed Murray.
Murray intends to major in Communications at SIU, and is looking into law for a future career.
“I’m glad I chose to be on the speech team because it allowed me to work on valuable skills and it also granted me experiences with some amazing people,” Murray said.
Jasmine Teston of Harrisburg is no stranger to the world of speech. Starting her speech career in her sophomore year of high school, she has added many accomplishments through the years, including placing third in communication analysis, third in prose interpretation, fourth in dramatic interpretation, and sixth in open oratory.
In her most recent performances with SIC, she participated in Communication Analysis, Persuasion, Dramatic Interpretation, Prose and Duo. Teston says she is most fond of her interpretation events, such as those in dramatic interpretation and prose.
“It worked as an outlet for my emotions whenever there was something hard I was dealing with or stress I needed to let off,” explains Teston.
Although she has not picked a university to attend, Teston is certain that she wants to major in English to finish her undergrad studies. Later, she hopes to eventually be accepted into a graduate program for library sciences. Her hope is to work at a wonderful college library and help students.
“The speech team taught me a lot of valuable life lessons and gave me so many lifelong friends,” Teston reflects on her final year in speech. “I believe that speech really opens up your mind and gives a safe space for an individual to figure themselves out.”
Carrier Mills native Billy Lewis joined his high school speech team during his senior year, for a total three years of speech competition thus far. This year, he is a state champion in duo interpretation (with partner Kale Rister), state champion in poetry interpretation, state champion in dramatic interpretation, third place in the individual sweepstakes and fourth place in the open prose division.
Lewis plans to attend University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to pursue a degree in communications, with future plans of becoming a communications professor and speech coach for a university. He will also continue to compete on scholarship with the University of Alabama forensics team.
“I knew that SIC had a legendary program… I desperately wanted to be a part of that legacy. I’m so glad that I chose to be on the speech team, because so many doors have been opened for me, and they would not have been opened if I wasn’t on the speech team. I will always think of this year’s team as a second family, and I will never forget all of the amazing people and memories I have made with my time at SIC.”
Kenzee Dycus of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, earned many honors this speech season. Dycus was named State champion in oratory, second in informative speaking, fourth in open speech to entertain, fourth in communication analysis, and fifth in individual sweepstakes. This year, she performed in the Informative, Persuasion, Communication Analysis and Speech to Entertain categories, but she says her favorite category is Poetry (probably).
“I did poetry last year and my topic was over being a feminist feminine. The topic was what made me love it so much because I got to dig into how ridiculous it is to have rules on what a feminist should be,” said Dycus.
Following her time at SIC, Dycus will be moving online to SIUC and majoring in Business and Administration. Her future career plans are to use her speaking skills to stand out from others in the business world. She also hopes to eventually coach cheer, as well as continue to teach gymnastics for as long as she can.
“In high school I did every sport possible. I cheered, danced, played softball and volleyball, and soccer. Nothing however, was as challenging as speech,” Dycus remarks. “I loved the challenge but more so, it was the people on my team.”
It is the personal connections formed with the speech team that Dycus will take with her after SIC.
“My first year, I made friends with people I don’t want to ever live life without. One of my best friends, Emma Bradley, came from being on this team,” Dycus said. “I wouldn’t change meeting her for anything and I am beyond grateful that this speech team brought me someone who’s made me so much more confident and out there.”
Tucker Murphy of Golconda had a successful speech season during his Sophomore year. State champion in open duo interpretation (with partner Bradley Frailey), Murphy was also crowned state champion in communication analysis, second in individual sweepstakes, second in speech to entertain, and third in program oral interpretation.
“I am crushed that we couldn’t take this team to nationals,” said head coach Jenny Billman. “They have worked incredibly hard and they are brilliantly talented. They will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The Forensic Falcons are coached by Jenny Billman, Dr. Tyler Billman, and Paul Cummins.