LHS Speech & Drama team goes virtual for season kick-off

By Stacy Bender


On Saturday, December 4, members of the Libby High School Speech & Drama Team competed in the 1st Class A Invitational of the 2020-21 Season, hosted in virtual fashion by Whitefish.  210 competitors linked-in from 18 different schools.  150 judges then listened from their remote stations as 176 entries were executed via Tabroom – on online forum developed by the National Speech and Debate Association.
“We were pretty relieved that it all came together,” shared Logger Coach, Kim Lee, as the weekend came to a close.  “It was a massive undertaking made possible by coaches all across Montana working together to pull off this first virtual meet of the season.  There were some glitches and frustrations, especially for coaches like myself who are somewhat technically challenged.  Overall, it worked and it was great that the kids got a chance to participate despite all the COVID restrictions currently at play.”
The five-member Logger team remained focused on their competition over the past couple of months in both preparing for their individual competitions and keeping up with often remotely-challenging studies at LHS – a requirement to remain actively involved with the team.  Virtual interaction with their coaches for guidance via Zoom and Google Meetings laid the groundwork for this atypical season.
Speech and Drama activity normally launches in late October and runs through January of each year.  This year, however, the competitive season has been condensed to just 8 weeks of Invitational, Divisional and State level meets combined.  A challenge to which the Libby Loggers seemed ready to greet as Saturday’s Invitational came to a close.
All five Loggers chose to compete in Speech events at the first meet of the season, and all five advanced to the semi-final rounds.  Of those, four went on to place in their individual event-finals.  “To be involved in Speech, Drama and Debate takes a lot of time and effort from these kids,” said Lee.  “Watching them work hard and ultimately succeed never gets old.”
“It is always a highlight to see this team push themselves outside their comfort zone to be successful.  Public speaking is hard and is something many people fear.  This weekend I saw my returning kids taking on different challenges than in the past and new team members were jumping right in to step-up and learn new skillsets.  Virtual competition is not necessarily as fun as in-person activity and the technical aspects can be frustrating – yet this team kept a good attitude and supported each other.  I am proud of them.”
Closing out his first weekend of Impromptu Speaking during his first-ever Speech and Drama meet, LHS Sophomore Thomas Roark finished his run impressively with a presentation in the semi-final rounds.  Given a quote or visual prompt during each level of the day’s competition, Thomas was then given 3 minutes to prepare an oratory address.   Some of the topics he found himself expounding upon:  Eliminating fear, finding strength, how technology affects today’s children, and carbon output by industrial factories.
Going on to ultimately place in the final round of the Whitefish Invitational were Taryn Thompson (Sr), Phillip Schnackenberg (Sr), Jena Hammond (Soph) and Aurora Smith (Soph).  Schnakenberg, who also joined the Speech and Drama team for the first time this year, finished 6th place overall in Original Oratory where he presented his self-authored piece on Modern Day Chivalry.
Jenna Hammond, returning for her second year of competition with the team, also took 6th place overall in her division – Informative Speaking – where she gave a presentation on Foster Care which touched upon the history, workings, and affects which children within the system experience.
Aurora Smith, also in her second year of competition with the team, claimed 5th place overall in Informative Speaking.  Smith gave a ten-minute presentation on the WACO Massacre aimed at sharing a little-known information which has since been identified as leading up to that day’s events.  Smith was proud of the fact that – with a great deal of diligence – she was able to present her piece entirely from memory.
Rounding out the top finishes for the Logger team, Taryn Thompson also claimed 5th place overall with a Dramatic Interpretation performance.  Taryn read an excerpt from William F. Nolan’s piece, Dead Call, for her first competitive entry of the season and being the three-year veteran on the team seemed the most excited that the 2020-21 Season had finally begun.
With a strong start now under their belt, the remainder of this season is looking bright for the LHS team who now have a field of Speech, Drama and Debate options wide open and ready for them to rise to any variety of challenges they might choose to explore beyond those divisions currently continuing to be mastered.  “We Loggers like to challenge ourselves,” shared Coach Lee.  “Our team offers opportunity, unlike most smaller schools, for students to branch out and explore all three branches of the oral and dramatic arts as time and circumstance might allow.”

Clockwise from left:  Jenna Hammond, Aurora Smith, Taryn Thompson, Thomas Roark and Phillip Schnakenberg post for posterity before making their final exit following the first Speech and Drama Invitational Meet of the 2020-21 Season for the Logger team.  The quintet had gathered to compete and in support of one another at Libby High School on Saturday, December 4, for 8 full hours of virtual competition. Photo by Stacy Bender, The Montanian.