Students develop lifelong skills as best season in history ranks Cedar Grove-Belgium in state’s top 5%
When it comes to presentation and public speaking, Cedar Grove-Belgium High School is one of the best in the state.
The Rockets completed their best forensics season in school history, with 34 students earning gold, silver or bronze medals at state competition. That put the school in the top 5% of the state, with 17 other teams earning Excellence in Speech Awards from the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association.
“It was surprising but it’s really cool,” gold medal winner Natalie Brey said.
While earning such an honor was unexpected at a small school, the Rockets have some secrets to their success.
“Our coaches are amazing,” Brey said.
“The interest in the arts is a really big deal at Cedar Grove-Belgium,” fellow gold medal winner Maggie Turchinski said.
“We had many new kids come in from all grade levels. The dedication from the students is what made the year a great one,” coach Mary Beth Desens said.
She was joined by Zak Ford in his first year of coaching.
“It would not have been possible to do as well this season without his dedication and hard work,” Desens said.
The team won 11 gold medals in a range of speeches. Brey memorized an eight to 10-minute humorous speech called “For Who the Bell, Like, Tolls.”
Turchinski wrote a 2,000 to 3,000-word speech on the U.S. Constitution. And she had to memorize it.
“I worked paragraph by paragraph, kind of like a song,” she said.
The pair practiced for hours to perfect their performances. Among the judged elements included eye contact, fluency, presentation, organization and eloquence.
The scene at a forensics meet could be alarming for those who don’t understand.
“As you’re walking down the hall, everybody’s talking to walls practicing their speeches,” Turchinski said.
While medals are rewarding, forensics provides skills that will serve students well in higher education and in their careers.
“Speaking skills and team work certainly transfer to the working world, as does the confidence gained from knowing what to say and how to say it,” Desens said.
After participating for years, Brey and Turchinski said they can see their improved skills.
“I feel like I’m more open to talk to people,” Brey said.
“Now we can easily convey what we’re thinking to people around us, because we’re so good at public speaking,” Turchinski said.
Desens outlined a few more benefits.
“Forensics not only gives students speaking skills like pronunciation, volume, eye contact and gestures, the students meet new people, are taken to new locations, and try to work well with the team as a whole to accomplish goals,” she said.
The Rockets excelled at all those.
“This year the team really encouraged one another to practice and do well all season. The team work was effective.”
This year’s success creates some added pressure next year.
“We are hoping for another big turn out for participation next year. We will try to keep the level of participation and success going,” Desens said.
Her team knows it. Brey and Turchinski are both juniors.
“Our senior year is going to be expecting a lot,” Turchinski said.
Gold medal winners were: Nicholas Spredemann, Sophia Larsen, Maggie Turchinski, Brittany Teunissen, Lexi Kohler, Molly Dirkse, Allison Niebauer, Jaiden Schueller, Ashley Washak, Natalie Brey and Jennifer Claerbaut.
Silver medal winners were: Jessica Crist, Brooke Tharp, Alexandrea Weiland, Samantha Weiland, Allison Lesar, Vanessa Depies, Abigail Lavey, Amanda Niebauer and Maddison Schreurs.
Bronze medal winners were: Christa Duenk, Emilie Gruell, Caleb Sells, Jacy Zajac, James Riessellmann, Noah Radant, David Morales, Rebecca Plier, Grace Voskuil, Kara Pree, Kaitlyn Wolff, Anna Kiskunas, Valerie Drzewiecki and Anna Sauer.