By Elise Franco
Students don’t have to be bookworms or budding politicians to find their place on the Canfield Speech and Debate Team, its members say.
Sophia Pilolli, who graduated in June, said most people have preconceived notions about the team that are usually off-base. Pilolli, who joined the team her freshman year, said even she was wrong about how speech and debate worked.
“I guess I thought it was just debating and giving speeches, but it so much more than that,” she said. “The speech part itself is so different and includes things like acting, poetry and humor.”
Jeremy Hamilton, high school speech and debate coach, said many people are surprised to learn what the team is really all about.
“There’s a vast array of categories. ... More recently, we’ve gotten a wider variety of students to join,” he said. “The team isn’t just one little niche because there is something every person could be interested in.”
Hamilton said that fact has shown over the past five years as the team grew from 60 students in the 2007-08 school year to 95 students in 2011-12.
He said he credits the students’ hard work and involvement for that growth.
“We’ve grown in numbers, but we’ve also grown in quality,” he said. “The team has gone from being kind of ‘hush-hush’ to something more generally accepted by students.”
Though many students join the team for fun, Hamilton said it is still a competition. This year six team members competed in the National Forensic League’s national tournament in Indianapolis.
Tim Nesnidol led the team at the national tournament, placing in the top 30 in the humor category. He also was the district champion and state runner-up in humor this year.
Shane Deiley and Ishmeet Grewal were both state runners-up in the public forum debate category and reached the top 64 at nationals. Andrik Massaro reached the top eight in Lincoln-Douglas debate at the state level, and the top 72 nationally in supplemental debate.
Pilolli and Jordan Teutsch competed in the duo interpretation category at the national tournament but didn’t place. They achieved third place at the state competition.
Nesnidol said he was pleased with the team’s accomplishments.
“I’m definitely happy that [six] people made it to nationals,” he said. “There’s room for more, but that was a great number. The people who went all did well.”
Pilolli said, for her, nationals was a different experience than other competitions.
“It was completely different than anything here in Ohio because it is with kids from across the country,” she said. “We got to sit and watch the different performance styles and interpretations.”
Hamilton said though many team members graduated in June, including Pilolli, Grewal and Teutsch, the incoming upperclassmen are capable of leading the team to success in 2012-13.
“We had some excellent seniors last year who set the bar very high,” he said. “And I know [Nesnidol] is looking forward to setting the bar high this year.”
Hamilton said the team is working toward one unified goal that the Canfield speech and debate team has never attained — a team championship at the state level.
“Of course it is very competitive, so as a team, our goal is to become state champions,” he said. “I think that’s a reasonable, yet challenging goal.”