EVANSTON — The Evanston High School Speak of the Devil Speech and Debate team held its year-end banquet on Tuesday, March 29, when the team celebrated a successful season that culminated with six team members qualifying for this year’s national tournament in June. The national tournament is slated to take place in Louisville, Kentucky, after being held virtually for the past two years.
National qualifying is determined by doing well in the Wind River District tournament, which was held March 17-19 in Rock Springs. The Wind River District encompasses all of the western side of the state and national qualifiers are typically the top two finishers in a given event. Seniors Aidan McGuire and Aidan Jacketta both qualified for the national tournament for a third straight year, with McGuire qualifying in the top spot in the Wind River District in Congressional House and Jacketta qualifying for World Schools debate. Both competed in World Schools Debate virtually in 2020 and both qualified for the national tournament in Congressional House in 2021.
Senior Randie Odden also qualified in World Schools debate in last year’s national tournament and this year will be participating in the poetry individual event, as will first-time national qualifier Ellie McFadden. Joining them will be Aubreyanna Jones competing in humorous interpretation and Jessica Powell competing in program oral interpretation (POI).
In addition to celebrating the success of the six national qualifiers, the team also celebrated the contributions of every competitor over what was a very successful season, with the team earning the top spot at two tournaments and multiple students making it to finals and placing during several tournaments.
Head coach Brian Hill recognized every team member with awards, both serious and silly. Addisen Maestas received the Quiet Storm award for her quiet exterior that belied a strong speaking voice that earned her seventh in informative speaking at the Wyoming State Tournament held in Riverton in March. Jacketta was given a fun award — the Impeccable Fashion Sense award — for regularly wearing a hoodie with shorts to team practices.
McGuire was recognized with the “Imma” Just Wing It award for his penchant for throwing pieces together at the last minute, which Hill said was actually a fairly successful strategy on more than one occasion. Bree Murphy was given the Make it Awkward for the Adults award for her knack for making adults uncomfortable with her chosen topics for her pieces.
Camilla Powell received the What Does My Ballot Say award for her habit of asking how she did before a round was even completed. Carter Stokes received the Most Improved recognition and Chayce Winans was honored with the Most Snacks award for having enough food to feed a small army on every trip.
The Poet Award went to Dakota Simon for regularly providing soul to the team, Emily Cooke was recognized with the Most Likely to Lose a Shoe on the Bus award, and Felisa Clarito earned the Bring it On Congress award for finding a talent for Congress at the very end of the season.
McFadden earned the Why Isn’t Poetry a District Event award for her regular complaints about poetry interpretation not receiving the respect it deserves and Hanah Kolata received the Most Likely to Break to Semis in a New Event award after breaking to semi-final rounds in U.S. extemporaneous speaking at the district tournament in an event she had never done before.
Hannah Silvester was given the My Method is to Have a Panic Attack award for regularly freaking out before competing, London Vetos was recognized with the Most Likely to Have a Stuffed Animal award, and Janet Salisbury the Most Likely to be Sleeping award for regularly napping in any available space on trips.
On a team with several redheads, Jessica Powell was given the Next-Gen Ginger award and Madajah Ries was given the Most Likely to Cancel You award. Tyler Moberley earned the Smartest Quiet Guy award, Jones was recognized as Best Dressed and Adalee May was given the Egg-cellence award, in what Hill said was an “inside joke.”
Finally, Odden was given the Reason Evanston is Great at POI award for acting as a mentor and teaching younger team member how to compete in that discipline. Hill said there were multiple occasions throughout the season when Evanston dominated POI and had several students placing in the top six.
Hill then presented letters to students who had earned them based on points earned through the National Speech and Debate Association throughout the season. Points are earned by competing in events, with additional points earned dependent on finish. Earning their first speech and debate letters were Maestas, Kolata, Simon, Stokes, Vetos, Silvester, May, Jones and Camilla Powell. Earning letters for the second year in a row were Ries, Odden, McFadden and Jessica Powell.
McGuire and Jacketta earned letters for the third year in a row, making them eligible for admission into the NSDA Honor Society Academic Achievement Awards, which Hill said is an honor reserved for a select few competitors. Hill will be submitting applications for the two and will then wait to see if they are selected.
Hill then presented NSDA Distinction awards to outgoing seniors based on cumulative points earned throughout their years competing. Odden received Special Level distinction for a cumulative point total of between 500-750. McGuire and Jacketta both received Outstanding distinctions, reserved for those who earn between 1,000-1,500 points throughout their careers. All three will still be eligible to earn more points by competing in the national tournament in June.
An emotional Hill then spoke about his four-year journey with the graduating seniors, saying, “It’s been pretty incredible to see these young people grow as leaders and as friends.”
McGuire — one of three team captains, along with Jacketta and Odden — then continued a team tradition of a monologue prior to or after meets. McGuire spoke about what he has found through speech and debate, saying that in other activities students are given plays to run or material to perform but speech and debate is different.
“Here, our voice is our own,” he said, “and that’s the power of speech and debate. It’s the only activity where our actions and words are totally up to us. We find our own voice.”
He continued by saying that he had also found family. “Families don’t always get along,” he said, “but what makes them family is that you love them, even if you may not necessarily like them all the time. I’ve often been told I’m the dad of the team and my experience here is as close to being a dad as I could get, or want to get, at this point in my life,” he said jokingly. “When the team has a good day, I have a good day. When the team has a bad day, I have a bad day. What I’ve learned here is that it doesn’t matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going.”
He then produced a copy of the book “14,000 Things to be Happy About,” which he said he has carried with him to every meet throughout his high school career, choosing three items from the extensive list to read aloud at each meet. He said he was adding his own entries to the back of new beginnings, family and tomorrow.
McGuire, Jacketta and Odden then said they were starting a new tradition of passing the book on to a team member who would be a senior the following year in what they were calling the Clarissa Cole Spirit award, named after assistant coach Clarissa Cole. The three passed the book on to McFadden, reminding her to carry it with her and keep up the tradition of choosing three items to read at every tournament, before passing it on to another member when she graduates.