State champions left speechless after win

State champions left speechless after win

As the list of duos remaining ticked down in the state final, seniors Emily Caravello and Kelly Jordan waited in anticipation to hear their names called. Seven duos competed in the state competition for Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA), and as places were announced from sixth place moving up, Caravello, Jordan and their teammates waited to find out where the two had placed.

Finally, they were one of the last two duos in the competition, with first place to be awarded. The names of the other duo were called. Being the only duo left on stage, the implications were obvious: Caravello and Jordan had just won the state title.

“It was … surreal,” Jordan said. “The moment we finally realized that we won state, we kind of blacked out the entire moment because we had been talking about it since we started our speech. That was the dream.”

Not only did Caravello and Jordan win the DDA state championship, but senior Anna Parisi and sophomore Dylan Maye also took first place in Humorous Duet Acting (HDA.) In their individual events, Caravello placed second in Prose Reading, junior Isa Gaby placed fifth in Original Comedy, sophomore Rosemary Heckard placed seventh in Dramatic Interpretation and Jordan placed seventh in Humorous Interpretation. The team as a whole placed fifth.

“When we got [to the state competition], because we had that experience [from last year] and because we were so … focused on being in that moment, rather than thinking about what it means…they were just able to go into their rounds and do what they had prepared for,” speech team head coach Michael Piccoli said. “They did it successfully.”

Piccoli worked to ensure that the team would have success at state by having long practices reaching late into the night and renting out a conference room at the hotel the night before the state tournament. 

“We really push the idea that even if you’re not working with us, you should be in a classroom practicing upstairs, or working with your partner, practicing,” Piccoli said.

This preparation transferred into the competition, allowing the competitors to enter their speech feeling confident and ready to perform.

“Weirdly, on Friday morning … we felt really ready,” Caravello said. “We had been working so hard and been so supported by our coaches that I felt we were really on top of everything … It was the most calm I had been, weirdly, at any competition so far that year.”

The experience the team had from prior years, especially last year, greatly helped the team prepare for this year’s state tournament. Parisi and Maye had qualified for state last year as a duo, and Caravello and Jordan had also advanced to the state competition last year. While Caravello and Jordan were just excited to be in the state competition last year, this year they had a bigger goal in mind.

“We really did have that end goal of winning,” Caravello said. “We did want to win.”

The team worked hard to support each other, with that support being driven by Piccoli. Piccoli became the head coach of the speech in 2020, and this was his first season coaching state champions.

“We were his first-ever state champions with him as head coach, so I think that was a really important thing to him,” Jordan said. “We were happy that we were able to give that to him.”

As the state competition drew nearer, preparation became more intense and the work put into the speeches became all the more important. However, one of the key pieces of preparation for Caravello and Jordan was their mental attitude right before they gave their speech.

“This is advice that our Coach Emmett gave us,” Caravello said. “He just said ‘to go in the room like you’re going to be the best in the room, and that’s going to translate.’”

This advice, combined with the four years of speech team experience, lots of incredible coaching and the life-long friendship between Caravello and Jordan is what allowed the two to take the state title.

“[Before entering the competition] we would just check in with each other and say ‘Ok, walk in like we’re the best,” Caravello said.

Caravello and Jordan’s relationship outside of speech was a large reason for their success at the competition. Their speech was about two girls, Bella (Jordan) and Kelsey (Caravello), who fall in love after Kelsey moves to Bella’s school. Bella’s family isn’t accepting, so she tries to push that aspect of herself away. She even gets a boyfriend, who eventually ends up outing her and Kelsey. When Bella’s dad finds out about this, he pushes her down the stairs killing her. Caravello and Jordan’s real-life friendship helped Caravello find the emotion for this tragic speech.

“We’ve been best friends since we were four, so that’s 13, almost 14 years,” Caravello said. “[The coaches] would always tell me ‘Just think if all of that, in the blink of an eye, was just gone with you and Kelly. You could never see her again, never talk to her, … never experience those times together again’ … That’s I think what set us apart was because we do have that connection outside of being actresses.”

Imagining this allowed Caravello to open up and make herself vulnerable, something she believes helped them do so well at state. It’s part of the speech following Bella’s death that is Caravello’s favorite.

“Right after Kelly’s character, Bella, dies, I’m explaining her death, and I put on the waterworks and start crying,” Caravello said. “That’s always my favorite part because I feel like it’s the most vulnerable and deepest part of the script.”

Despite the success of their speech, Caravello and Jordan initially didn’t want to do a DDA. It wasn’t even until winter break, roughly halfway through the season, that their duet was formed. Piccoli and the other coaches decided to change some of the events their speakers were in. One of these changes included putting Caravello and Jordan in DDA together.

The hesitation to perform this speech comes from the lack of preparation they initially had. They received their script for the speech only a week before their first competition after winter break, and both of them were also doing two other events. Additionally, according to Caravello, it’s really difficult to find good girl-girl DDA scripts. 

“We just, honestly, at first, didn’t want to do it,” Caravello said.

However, their coaches urged them to trust them about this decision, which ultimately led to a state title.

Assistant coaches played a huge role in the success of the team. Lindsey Craig, an instructional assistant for student services, played a big role helping the freshmen on the team. Emmett Knee, Prospect alumnus, former speech state champion and brother of senior Charlie Knee, also helped the team do well. He was able to offer a unique perspective as a recent graduate and former state champion, which helped the team prepare for competitions. Both Caravello and Jordan cited his advice as a key piece in their success on stage. Athletic Director Scott McDermott, who is a former speech team coach, also helped the students prepare, watching their speeches and giving them feedback on how to improve.

“It really was a whole team effort of everyone coming together and sharing their strengths,” Piccoli said.

The students on the team also helped each other succeed, supporting each other during and after every competition. They do their best to watch the other speakers compete, giving each other confidence and support.

“We built a culture on the team of building each other up and supporting each other no matter what happens,” Caravello said. “I think we just all really really put in a lot of work, and that support, you feel that on the team … [it] pushed all of us to do our best.”

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