The Fennimore High School forensics team turned in its best performance ever at the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association State Speech Festival last month.
Thirteen Fennimore students earned gold medals and 11 more earned silver at the 120th annual Festival, held April 17-18 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Festival hosted 4,571 students from 344 high schools across the state, 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, which the school and teacher each presented with a plaque. This year, 18 schools earned the honor, including Fennimore High School.
“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.”
Fennimore earned an Excellence in Speech Award in 2014 as well.
Carrie Krogman has led the FHS forensics team for 31 years.
“It is not just me,” Krogman says. “I have great assistant coaches and we have good kids.”
Brad Van Epps, Lisa Evans and Donna Williams-Richter served as assistant coaches for the 2014-2015 season.
The 24 medals is the most won by a Fennimore team.
“Every kid got a gold or a silver medal,” Krogman says. “That is the best we have ever done.
“I tried to call the state and find out what place we were in, but they aren’t telling. They just want us all to think we did well. So they won’t tell us. Although, last year we got 10th, so I feel it is better than 10th out of 344 schools. So it is kind of exciting.”
Krogman said the success of the 2014-2015 team was the result of a talented crop of students taking their coach’s teachings to heart.
“We have some really good kids and a lot of them are going to be back next year,” Krogman says. “There are not many seniors leaving the program.”
The forensics season begins in late December or January.
“We have an informational meeting at the end of November, usually, just to sign up,” Krogman says. “Then we get organized and they find out who their coaches are and what they are going to do.”
Students may choose from over 10 performances, including Demonstration, Extemporaneous, Four-Minute, Moments in History, Oratory, Public Address, Radio Speaking, Special Occasion, Storytelling, Farrago, Poetry, Prose, Solo Acting (Humerous), Solo Acting (Serious), Group Interpretation and Play Acting.
“At the beginning of the season we had more kids that wanted to do it than we could use,” Krogman says. “You can only have 25 entries. We had 25 entries with 37 kids that were actually able to participate, but we had almost 50 that signed up in the first place. That is pretty good for a little school.”
To narrow the number of participants, Fennimore held an elimination competition.
“It was really hard because we felt like most of our kids in a normal school would have gotten to go through the levels and past Fennimore but they didn’t get to do that because we had to cut,” Krogman says.
Following a local elimination, there is a sub-district competition, Southwest Wisconsin Activities League competition, district competition and the State Speech Festival.
“We get a lot of kids that are in sports and music and everything else,” Krogman says. “They are busy. They have to fit this in.”
Fennimore junior Kayla Kephart participated in forensics for the first time this season.
“This was my first year in forensics and I had a blast,” she said. “Mrs. Krogman was an awesome coach and all the coaches work super-hard with us all through the season and I think it really showed at state.
“It is really fun to see how much everyone improves over the season. It is awesome everyone placed either silver or gold at state.”
Ryan Mulrooney earned his second gold medal earlier this month.
“Forensics has been one of my favorite extra-curriculars at school,” he says. “It is such a fun atmosphere. You get to talk or act out something that could trigger a memory or inspire someone.
“Talking about something you’re passionate about makes speaking even better and more memorable. Everyone should give it a try.”
Krogman will welcome anyone and everyone to the forensics team.
“Anybody that wants to try it,” she says. “You can pick some kids out right away because you just know that doesn’t mind talking. Every once in a while you get a real quiet kid and you just have to pull it out of them but sometimes they do really well.”
Fennimore senior Brienna Hunt joined the forensics team as a freshman.
“I had a great four years in forensics,” she says. “Coming in as a freshman I thought it might not be my thing. None of my friends were doing it and I wasn’t sure if I would like it.
“Fortunately, I had the pleasure of having Mr. Van Epps as my coach for three years. He always believed in me and encouraged me to do better. That is what really makes our program great. Our coaches really care. They will do anything to make you better. They will push you to be your best and be just as happy as you are with your success. That is what I love about FHS forensics!”
Kennedy Lee completed her third season on the forensics team earlier this month.
“It truly is an honor to be a part of the forensics team,” she says. “Forensics has given me life skills that I will take with me forever.
“I think we are so successful because of how much time and energy our coaches invest in our pieces. We have some of the best coaches around and they are always willing to work around our schedules and practice with us to make sure we are well-rehearsed and prepared.”
Similar to her coaches, Lee sees more accomplishments on the horizon for the FHS forensics team.
“I see our forensics team being even more successful in the next few years because we have so many decorated veterans,” she says. “I am so proud of everything our team has accomplished this year, from getting second at conference and doing so well, to placing the best we ever have at state.
“It is truly amazing and I’m so happy that I got to be a part of a program like this. I could recommend forensics to anyone who wants to improve their speaking skills, make memories, or be a part of a special team.”