The Fennimore forensics team continued its tradition of excellence at the 121st annual Wisconsin High School Forensic Association State Speech Festival last month.
Fennimore earned six individual gold ratings and three more gold ratings in group interpretation, plus 11 silver ratings individually, one silver rating in group interpretation and four bronze ratings individually.
The State Speech Festival hosted 4,656 students from 340 high schools across the state of Wisconsin, as well as La Crescent, Minnesota.
Judges rate each student or performing group, and the top five percent of point-earning schools are recognized with Excellence in Speech Awards, with the school and teacher each presented with a plaque.
Fennimore High School was one of 18 schools to earn the honor. This is the third straight year Fennimore has earned an Excellence in Speech Award. Boscobel High School, Cuba City High School, Darlington High School, Lancaster High School and Platteville High School were also honored.
“Students in our academic sport practice long hours to hone their skills and meet the expectations upon which they will be judged,” said WHSFA Executive Director Adam Jacobi. “These schools represent consistent performance across a variety of contest events at our festival, and should be lauded for their performance.”
A score of 25 earns a participant a gold rating. A score of 24 or 23 earns a silver rating, while a score of 22 or 21 earns a bronze rating.
Fennimore students earning a gold rating were Isabel Glasbrenner (Solo Acting, Serious), Bailey Sherman (Solo Acting, Humorous), Jillian Smith (Farrago), Tomara Merten (Farrago), Emilee Klaas (Farrago) and Noah James (Demonstration). The group interpretation “The Devious Book for Cats” (Emily Ruchti, Hayley Bender, Sarah-Kate Kenney, Tana Davis and Kristen Kohout) earned gold, as did “Men vs Women” (Trevor Hamilton, Ryan Mulrooney, Logan O’Brien, Brett Needham and Kennedy Lee), and “The Geek Handbook” (Jalen Pehmoeller, Zach McCartney, Bradley McCartney, Elivia Edge and Tucker Duff).
A silver rating was given to Fennimore’s Caroline Day (Poetry Reading), Abrianna Gommel (Poetry Reading), Matthew Duff (Prose Reading), Gracie Mercer (Prose Reading), Tucker Trefz (Solo Acting, Serious), Kerry Kohout (Solo Acting, Humorous), Dominick Perry (Public Address), Olivia Ahnen (Special Occasion), Hunter Barry (Special Occasion), Sam Punke (Moments in History) and Adam Riley (Demonstration). The group interpretation “Superheroes” (Barron Carns, Angie Maag, Nick Fuerstenberg, Andrea Bendorf and Cali Streif) earned a silver rating also.
Fennimore’s Ashlyn Boebel (Poetry Reading), Jaylyn Millin (Poetry Reading), Jacinda Hecker (Four-Minute Speech) and TJ Kenney (Moments in History) were awarded a bronze rating.
What has been the secret to Fennimore’s success?
“One of the things is that kids see kids having fun and they think they would like to try that,” head coach Carrie Krogman said. “Years ago we had some kids, some groups of boys that did it for fun, and they were athletes. So that seemed to help get it going and now all kinds of kids want to do it since then. They see other kids having success and they want to try it too.”
For assistant coach Lisa Evans, the answer lies in the students. The forensics roster included more than 50 students this season.
“So many of Fennimore’s high school students are focused on preparing themselves for the future and taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are offered at Fennimore High School,” she said. “Students see the forensics program as one of those opportunities. The ability to stand in front of a group of people and convey their message clearly is a skill that will benefit students for the rest of their life.
“Students work hard to secure a spot on the team through a local competition, and they realize their responsibility to the team once they have earned their spot. They work hard to garner success for themselves but also for the entire forensics team.”
Trefz, a senior, has been a member of the forensics team since his freshman year.
“Fennimore is so successful because of the enthusiasm and great efforts the coaches put forth,” he said. “Forensics has been a unique experience in which I have been privileged to participate. I felt pressure to join the forensics team my freshman year to try and replicate the successful career that my sister, Erika, experienced.
“I have enjoyed challenging myself with a different category each year and have been fortunate to be coached by three great teachers. Besides learning speaking skills and building confidence, forensics has allowed me to connect with my coaches, and gain an appreciation for literature and fine arts.”
Riley, a sophomore, participated in forensics for the first time this season, participating in Demonstration.
“I presented on beekeeping, showing the various safety equipment, how to start a new colony, and the basic equipment that I use,” he explained. “For demonstrations, we are given 10 minutes, which includes set-up and take-down. I enjoyed forensics because it gave me the opportunity to talk about my passion.”
Riley gives credit for Fennimore’s sucess to his coaches.
“I would say Fennimore forensics is successful because of our coaches. They work with us individually and gave me areas of weaknesses to improve on every time I presented,” he said. “My coach was Mrs. Evans. In addition, she was very flexible at setting up practice times and working around my busy schedule with sports, FFA, and many other things.”
Glasbrenner, a junior, enjoys the challenge forensics provides.
“It’s tough to stand up in front of a crowd and create a story or discuss something while actively keeping the people watching you entertained,” she said. “But when it’s all over with, the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing that challenge outweighs the unnerving aspect of standing in front of a crowd.
“Also, I think what makes Fennimore forensics so successful is the team and its members. Not only do we have the guidance of our coaches, but it’s really special how each person wants to succeed, but they also want to see every other member on the team surmount as well. That drive is really what makes Fennimore forensics as accomplished as it is.”
Needham joined the forensics squad as a senior and made the most of it, earning a gold rating in a Group Interpretation performance.
“Fennimore forensics has a bunch of really good coaches that make sure everyone is successful,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect when I decided to join, but I am glad I decided to do it and be a one and done.”
Although she retired after more than 30 years in the classroom last year, Krogman was more than happy to remain coach of the forensics team.
“I have been doing it for years and I think it is fun,” she said. “The bonding with the kids, finding out what they do and helping them do better than the last competition. And when they do perform better, that is cool.”