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Lena-Winslow High School Speech Team

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In the News

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Pearl City High School sophomore Heidi Erbsen, left, and Rochelle High School junior Carol Anderson practice their original oratories Saturday at Lena-Winslow Junior High School.

Le-Win Tournament Signals Resurgence in Speech (from the Jan. 8, 2008 issue of the Journal-Standard)

BY RYAN BLACKBURN
ryan.blackburn@
journalstandard.com

When Tom Fore first came to Lena-Winslow High School in 2002 to teach English and coach competitive speech, there was minimal interest in the extra-curricular activity.

Back then, only two students participated in the program. Today, however, it has grown to nearly 17 students.

"It's increased eightfold, since I've been here," Fore said last Friday as he briefed students and other volunteers who were setting up for Lena-Winslow High School's first invitational speech tournament on Friday.

Fore says the milestone for the school should help promote and increase the rigor of the speech program. He added that speech is an increasingly important skill for students to master.

"I would imagine that very few of (our) students are going to be professional football or volleyball players," Fore said. "Most of these kids will be going on to college or entering a particular profession where speech is vital."

About 11 schools with as many as 200 kids came from as close as Freeport and as far away as the Chicago suburbs to be judged in 13 separate categories of speech in Lena. Students were judged in competitions ranging from duet acting, to verse reading, original comedy and prose reading.

"I wanted to try and make our team more competitive and I want to try to help make our part of the state more competitive statewide," Fore said. "And the more tournaments that are available to us locally, the better off we are."

In a given year, there may be seven to nine different speech competitions.

The Illinois High School Association's regional tournament will be held in Freeport on Feb. 2.

The top four students from the regional tournament will go to sectionals in Galesburg on Feb. 9. The state tournament will be held the weekend of Feb. 16 at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville.

Fore said the invitational tournament will help his students, who often have to go up against larger schools during regional, sectional and state competitions.

"There is no class distinction," Fore said. "We are limited, so we're competing against schools anywhere from five to six times our size."

Fore said he hoped the tournament would also encourage other smaller schools in the area from hosting invitational tournaments.

Pennie Miller, a speech coach for Eastland and Pearl City schools, said more schools, such as Aquin, Dakota and West Carroll High Schools have established speech teams.

"These other schools have competed with other schools through invites, but it just hasn't gotten off the ground," Miller said.

Fore said having more invitational tournaments could influence more students to get involved.

"One of the problems that I've noticed over the years is many students don't know what competitive speech is," Fore said. "A lot of kids, they know what basketball is, they know what cheerleading is, but I've had kids that are upper classmen that don't even know what we do and by exposing us through our own tournament, that will hopefully draw more kids into the program."