West Ranch Speech qualifies for state competition


Alice Xie, Copy Editor

     The weekend of March 12 marked the state qualifying competition for speech, where four West Ranch students qualified to compete at the state level. Students Sana Meher, Swarada Kulkarni, Jo Jojo and Adhitya Ram—all of whom placed high enough in their respective categories to move onto states—began the competition, which is often called squals, after school on March 11 over Zoom.

     Following an early check-in and registration, as well as an orientation, students began competing in their various events, starting at nine in morning and ending with semifinals and finals at three in the afternoon. The competition spanned two days, and students competed rigorously every round in order to earn a top spot.

     Sana Meher, a junior at West Ranch, spoke about her personal experience competing at state qualifiers: “So for me, squals started out with prep. This meant that after school, I had to practice for my rounds as well as prepare myself to speak over Zoom. On Friday, I had two rounds- one for each event. The next day, I woke up at seven and prepared myself for my rounds again. I had two additional preliminary rounds, and I was really surprised when I got called up for finals. I attended the awards ceremony over zoom and I was very surprised to learn that I qualified not in one but two speech events.”

     After a season of various competitions leading up to squals, students have perfected their techniques, speeches and presentations. Swarada Kulkarni, West Ranch junior and speech junior captain, explained how she prepared for the competition: “I would say the most important thing is practice, practice and practice. The event that I do is a ten minute speech, so it is a lot of initial work to get the speech written. After that, memorizing is an even bigger challenge, but by working on it section by section, I was able to get it done. Attending practice was also super important because it allowed me to get valuable feedback from my peers and speech friends.”

     The fact that speech competitions have shifted to online platforms such as Zoom has been another hurdle that students have had to navigate. Mr. Smith, the speech team adviser, said that “the online venue still allows them to hone their public speaking skills, so even through Zoom they should be able to speak to people, communicate and express ideas. But obviously there’s a lot of benefit to being in-person and obviously the students miss the kinetic energy of connecting and interacting with other people.”

     Even though circumstances were unusual in this year’s competition, West Ranch students were still able to capitalize on the opportunity. In this year’s competition, students who placed among the top six in their categories were given the chance to compete at the state competition, which in turn provides a chance to move on to the national level.

     When squals were wrapped up and final rankings and awards were revealed on March 12, it was announced that four of our own Wildcats would be moving on to represent West Ranch at states. Jo Jojo placed second in Dramatic Interpretation, Adhitya Ram and Swarada Kulkarni placed second and third respectively in Informative Speaking and Sana Meher placed fourth in Original Advocacy and fifth in Original Oratory.

     While reflecting on her experiences this season, Kulkarni emphasized that, “Hopefully, we can have in person competitions again [next year] so that I can travel throughout the nation doing speech competitions. Long term, I don’t think I will have a career specifically focusing on speech, but the skills that I have learnt will definitely be useful throughout my entire life.”

     Mr. Smith echoed these sentiments, adding, “Communication is so important because most problems in the world can be solved with communication and we don’t communicate enough. But I think speech allows students to become better communicators regardless of whatever they are doing in their life. We need to communicate in our lives, in our families, in our careers, and I think that speech prepares them for that.”

     After a phenomenal run at squals, Jojo, Ram, Kulkarni and Meher will be participating at the state competition from April 30 to May 1. Wildcats, make sure to cheer on our four speakers and reach out with any questions about West Ranch speech to Mr. Smith.