APS Column: Celebrating the AHS speech team

Published 6:08 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

By Dan Evans Hanson

Austin High School Speech Coach

The speech team at Austin High School has a long and illustrious history. Unfortunately, this exciting and rewarding activity fell by the wayside a few years ago, but we’ve been working hard to rebuild the program.

Joey Kretchman-Grande and I re-started the team at AHS in Fall of 2019. When Joey relocated to Waconia last year, I took the head coaching job. I have almost a decade’s worth of coaching experience, as I was an assistant coach myself for about 7 years at Burlington High School in Iowa.

Speech has been a wonderful blessing in my life. The kids who commit to Speech are usually in it for the long haul. We get up early, board buses, and travel long distances together. It becomes a ritual and routine. It’s thrilling, exhausting, exhilarating, grueling, and sometimes painful, but ALWAYS rewarding.

In speech, our events are broken down two ways: Public Address and Interpretation. Public Address events are proper speeches that students write themselves. For example, Afi’s Informative speech this year deals with some of the large and small societal changes as a result of the pandemic. Syrian’s speech analyzes the cultural phenomenon of “Peter Pan Syndrome” and connects it to symbolic representations of various characters in the novel and film. Namo wrote an Informative speech this year on the history of capitalism, warts and all.

In interpretation events, students are given a topic and must prepare a specific type of speech. Anna, Nawras, and Krista participate in Discussion. In this event students are given a task which contains a problem to solve. It might ask them to take on the role of politicians debating the correct path to take on the Electoral College or the role of social media in presidential campaigns.

Nels and Caden participate in the Interpretive event of Humorous Interpretation. This event is basically acting and the intent is to make the audience (and the judge) crack up with laughter. Nels’s piece deals with the thrills and pitfalls of online dating, while Caden’s is a straightforward lampoon of teenage life.

The Austin High School Speech Team is made up of 2 coaches (myself and Ike McIntosh) and eight competitive speakers in various events. The team members, along with their events, include:

• Anna Gil (11th grade): Discussion.

• Krista Cook (11th grade): Discussion.

• Nawras Zaki (10th grade): Discussion.

• Annika “Nels” Nelson (12th grade): Humorous Interpretation.

• Caden Strampe (12th grade): Humorous Interpretation.

• Namo Afanou (11th grade): Informative speaking.

• Afi Adjowui (11th grade): Informative speaking.

• Syrian Rabideau (11th grade):  Informative speaking.

Anna and Krista are our only returning members from last year, which was heavily impacted due to COVID-19 (All tournaments were virtual). Everyone else joined fresh this year.

The last few years have seen tremendous growth in our program, and we’re very excited to see what the future holds.  To date, we still don’t have a debate team (Lincoln Douglass, Public Forum, Policy, etc.), but we’d love to see that happen. Maybe that will be the next step.