Speech takes home state title


Speech team poses after receiving state title.

By Caroline Binley, online editor-in-chief
After junior Jimmy McDermott took first in the state for Original Oratory, his sister waited for the results of her own event. For the sake of sibling rivalry, sophomore Molly McDermott and junior Ben Marshall now had to take first in Humorous Duet Acting (HDA).
After Molly turned to Marshall and told him as much, Marshall’s mind raced to every mistake they had made during their final round, convinced they would walk away with last.
“If I ended up getting seventh, I would have been happy with that,” Marshall said. “My goal was just to make it to state.”
When it finally came time for HDA results, Marshall didn’t end in seventh. The duo wasn’t chosen as sixth, fifth, fourth or third, either. Marshall and Molly made it to the top two, and the only other team left unplaced had repeatedly beat them in earlier tournaments.
Marshall again resigned from winning, this time worried that Molly would be upset.
But she ended up having no reason to be. Marshall’s face dropped as the other team was announced for the second-place slot, despite being trained to smile and accept a first place award the same as a last place finish.
“All that went away,” Marshall said.
He and Molly were physically shaking as they went backstage to receive mics before performing for two thousand IHSA State attendees.
“It wasn’t even that we were so happy or so excited or we couldn’t stop smiling,” Marshall said. “No. We were like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that just happened.’ … We just didn’t think it was going to end up being us.”
As they performed their HDA, the story of best friends who vowed to marry each other at 25 if they didn’t marry anyone else beforehand, they messed up lines they had never missed before. They also got to add back in lines that were deemed awkward or inappropriate earlier in the season, finally cashing in on coaches’ promises that they could add them back if they won state.
Prospect students competed at the IHSA Speech State Final on Friday, Feb. 19, and Saturday, Feb. 20. The Knights took first in the team sweepstakes in addition to four event wins.
Marshall, Molly McDermott, Jimmy McDermott, senior Kit Fitzgerald and senior Andrew Pittman each took first in one of their events. They were the first Knights to win State since Ivy Fishman took first in Dramatic Interpretation in 2013.
Jimmy McDermott won in Original Oratory for his informational speech on FOMO, the fear of missing out.
Fitzgerald won in Prose Reading for her performance of “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things,” which she read while covered in temporary tattoos.
Pittman won in Humorous Interpretation for his narration of “50 Shades of Grey.”
Prospect placed in additional five events.
Pittman received third in Original Comedy, performing a sketch about an elementary school election.
Fitzgerald and Jimmy McDermott took third in Dramatic Duet Acting. This was their second year performing the script, which Jimmy explained was about “young couple that gets pregnant, has a miscarriage and has to fight their way through the relationship after that.”
Senior Lillian Hermes received fourth place in Impromptu Speaking.
Junior John Zach took fifth in Poetry Reading for a piece about the LGBT community.
Molly McDermott took fifth in Dramatic Interpretation.
15 students — freshman Emmett Knee, sophomores Nicky Cima, Keilyn Howard, Alyssa O’Connell, Emma Knott, Kamila Cwanek and Megan McLaughlin, juniors Maggie Ward, Grace Godby, Michael Aliacote, Abby Grott and Anthony Ciero, and seniors Ryan Kopp, Natalie Carioti and Grace Gadow — took fifth in Performance in the Round for their 15-minute “Mamma Mia.”

Speech team poses after receiving state title.
Speech team poses after receiving state title. Photo courtesy of Kit Fitzgerald.

Team results came last, ranked based on the points earned by individual winners. Before the results were announced, a parent had already done the math and told the team they won. However, that didn’t diminish the joy of hearing it announced, especially since many members didn’t think this day would come.
“We did do really well [two years ago],” Marshall said. “We got sixth, and it was awesome. I felt like fifth or sixth was the best we would ever do. … I never thought that we would end up being first in the state.”
The team left for state seventh period Thursday, Feb. 18, after five periods of performing for students in the theater. The team usually performs in classrooms, so the change of setting helped them prep for state, where they performed in conference centers and events were rarely divided by real walls.
The State competition was held in the Peoria Civic Center, about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Prospect. Students stayed at Embassy Suites about a mile away.
After a three-hour long awards ceremony on Saturday, the team had dinner at Granite City to celebrate their success. At 11:30 or 12 pm, they finally made it on the road home. They arrived, exhausted, back at Prospect at 3 am.
For Marshall, getting home so late was “horrible” but well worth it.
“This year was more fun,” said Marshall, who also attended state his freshman and sophomore years. “It felt like there was a great reward at the very end of it.”
With the state title under their belts, Speech is looking ahead to Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah. The list of Knights who will compete nationally wasn’t determined by their State success. Instead, students will qualify at the District tournament March 6.
The only exception to this rule is Jimmy McDermott, who auto-qualifies because he was a semi-finalist at Nationals last year. Jimmy hopes to see another 10 Knights come with him — a number of national competitors that would be consistent with last year.
Qualifying students will leave to Salt Lake City the day after finals end, but before they make it that far, Speech will bring two of their first-in-state performances to Prospect’s own stage at an assembly held tomorrow between first and second period.
Marshall and Jimmy initially worried about mandatory pep assembly.
“We were really excited, but kids always try to find ways to not go to [assemblies],” Marshall said. “Speech has always been kind of underappreciated, and that was something I was fine with. I didn’t want attention to be drawn [to speech] negatively.”
However, reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m glad that people are excited to see what we’re doing every Saturday,” Marshall said. “They’ll be able to see that it’s not an easy thing.”