The Chatfield High School speech team has done well at competition this spring. In front, from left, are Brianna Martinka, Celene Arellano, Frankie Littrell, Lilly Gurtner and Sami Anderson. In the second row are Tess LaFrenier, Christopher Solie, Isaiah Rudalen and Morgan Round. In the third row are Alex Walker-Kreter, Brian Pagnano, Marissa Hanson, Danielle Norton, Kayla Nelson, Alli Hanson and Matt Dietz. Not shown are Keagan Anthony, Levi Cole, Gabby Bouska, Jeana Chapman and Frida Larson.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
The Chatfield High School speech team has done well at competition this spring. In front, from left, are Brianna Martinka, Celene Arellano, Frankie Littrell, Lilly Gurtner and Sami Anderson. In the second row are Tess LaFrenier, Christopher Solie, Isaiah Rudalen and Morgan Round. In the third row are Alex Walker-Kreter, Brian Pagnano, Marissa Hanson, Danielle Norton, Kayla Nelson, Alli Hanson and Matt Dietz. Not shown are Keagan Anthony, Levi Cole, Gabby Bouska, Jeana Chapman and Frida Larson. PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
They're outspoken, but never out-spoken.

"The confidence and behavior of our team members often speaks volumes in their favor," said Chatfield High School (CHS) speech team adviser Kelly Puent, proud of the students who earned first place honors at the Three Rivers Conference Speech Competition held March 16.

This spring's Chatfield High School speech team includes students in seventh through 12th grade - Tess LaFrenier, Brian Pagnano, Lilly Gurtner, Levi Cole, Marissa Hanson, Alex Walker-Kreter, Brianna Martinka, Celene Arellano, Morgan Round, Frankie Littrell, Alli Hanson, Jeana Chapman, Kayla Nelson, Gabby Bouska, Frida Larson, Danielle Norton, Keagan Anthony, Sami Anderson, Matt Dietz, Isaiah Redalen and Christopher Solie.

They compete in 13 different categories of speech, including creative expression, discussion, drama, duo interpretation, great speeches, extemporaneous reading, informative, poetry, prose and storytelling.

The team, as a group, finished at the top of the Three Rivers Conference in it tournament, earning the title of Champion.

As individuals, Tess LaFrenier was conference champ in creative expression, Brian Pagnano was conference champ in discussion and Lilly Gurtner was second in discussion. Levi Cole was conference champ in drama, Marissa Hanson and Alex Walker-Kreter were second in duo. Morgan Round was third in extemporaneous reading, Frankie Littrell was fifth in extemporaneous reading, Brianna Martinka was sixth in extemporaneous reading and Celene Arellano was seventh. Jeana Chapman was second in informative, Kayla Nelson was conference champ in poetry and Gabby Bouska was second in poetry. Danielle Norton was conference champ in prose and Keagan Anthony was third in prose. Matt Dietz was conference champ in storytelling, Isaiah Redalen was fourth and Christopher Solie was fifth.

The team began practicing in January, a week after returning from Christmas break, and has met after school Tuesdays through Fridays until 5 p.m., dedicating their time to learning how to express themselves well...well enough to sweep the conference standings.

"All 19 of our kids that competed placed," Puent added. "They competed against five other schools and the Three Rivers Conference is not a tournament that you compete up to. You compete or you don't, but it is against all of the teams within the Three Rivers Conference designation."

Puent felt great after learning of her students' wins. "It's the first time in my seven years of coaching speech at Chatfield that we've become conference champs," she said.

Puent noted that participation in speech benefits students in various ways. "It helps them to be able to speak well in front of a group of people, learn to write creatively and persuasively, improve acting skills, boosts confidence, excel as an individual and as part of a team, make positive connections with students from other schools, teaches them responsibility and leadership, and allows them to have fun in an activity that many people are afraid to try."

Tournaments reinforce the lessons the students gain in speech by placing them in competition with their peers.

"The time and effort that a student puts into practice is often reflected in the awards they earn as an individual and as a team," Puent continued. "It still may take new or young competitors awhile to place at tournaments, but their progress is also reflected in the critiques they are given from their judges and their ever-improving ranks and percentages. The reputation of speech competitors is also a reflection on their efforts. There are many people in the various school systems that have mentioned what a good group of kids we have in speech."

Puent said she coaches speech to encourage students to become what their potential is. "I like being able to work with kids in an individual and small group atmosphere," she said. "Speech also gives me a chance to have fun with dramatic, comedic and informational presentations. And it gives me an opportunity to get to know kids in a way that is different from the classroom."

She added, "I get to know them on a more personal level. We have some great kids in our district, and it's fun to see them succeed and be part of the process that helps them succeed. I also appreciate working with the assistant coach, Rachel Schieffelbein. Rachel has a lot of valuable coaching experience and always has the best interests of the kids in mind."

CHS's speech team has experienced growth and change over the past five years.

"We've grown in numbers, especially this year," Puent said. "We have 21 students that have been competing in speech this school year. It's great to have that much enthusiasm for the program."

Puent pointed out that parents can encourage kids to find out what speech is all about.

"We have 13 different categories that range anywhere from informational and persuasive speech writing to creative writing, categories that focus on different types of interpretation and acting abilities, to speaking extemporaneously about topics in our current national and world political system," Puent explained. "Our speech parents are also already great at supporting our kids. Many of them are listening to endless practices at home, volunteering to manage the concessions area at our home tournament and coming to various tournaments to see their kids present their speeches."

Furthermore, the community has lent its generosity to making the speech team's successes happen.

"There are a number of businesses in town that support the speech team with donations of money, food items, paper supplies and prizes for our home tournaments," Puent shared. "We feel very fortunate that we already have a great community that supports our kids."

Puent thanked the students for their interest in and devotion to speech as they prepared to compete at another tournament as the speech season continues.