Posted on: May 1, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by John Nash

Speech team members Kandyce Swain, Gabe Dunkle, Julian Zubrzycki, Chayse Mueller, Lydia Garcia, Aidan McGuire, and Oswaldo Ocampo hold the awards they won during nationals.

By Nick Stulga, Editor-in-Chief

At the Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, the Moraine Valley speech team made history.

That’s where nationals took place this year. Up against 55 community and junior colleges, the team won nationals back-to-back for the first time ever. To do so, the team won six gold medals in the eight Moraine speeches that advanced to the final round. This is the team’s sixth nationals win in the past 17 years.

“We all kind of agreed it’s the smoothest nationals we ever had,” team captain Aidan McGuire said. On top of winning the trophies, McGuire said the “team just bonded really well.”

Teammate Oswaldo Ocampo echoed McGuire’s sentiment.

“Honestly it was really fun,” Ocampo said. “It went by very fast. Even the coaches, they agreed  this was the best group of students we had on the team.”

Photo by Aidan McGuire
Oswaldo Ocampo, team captain Aidan McGuire, Chayse Mueller, Julian Zubrzycki, Gabe Dunkle and Kandyce Swain do some sightseeing near the White House in Washington, D.C.

Ocampo was the recipient of the Warren-Dahlin student fellowship award. The award is voted on by the competitors within region 4, which includes Moraine. The award was created in 1979 and is given to the student who best embodies the ideals of the Phi Rho Pi organization, which oversees speech at two-year colleges. 

Ocampo joins three other Moraine students in this accomplishment: Wilvincent Go in 2010, Kelly Bressanelli in 2014, and Ramey Abu Dayyeh in 2015. 

“I’ve been doing speech for eight years,” Ocampo said. “This was the best speech season I had, not just because I did well but because everyone was cool.” He said he was honored to win the student fellowship award.

The team also did some sightseeing while in the D.C. area. Assistant coach Krista Appelquist said they visited the Holocaust Museum and walked the National Mall, seeing landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the White House.

Appelquist’s love for speech started when she went to Eastern Illinois University. She then coached at Northern Illinois University while she was in grad school. From there, she helped kickstart the forensics program at Moraine in 2000. In all her time with Moraine’s program, this year was especially memorable for her.

“No offense to any past year, but in regards to attitude and talent, this is the best team I’ve coached in 22 years,” Appelquist said.

To prepare, team members practiced in the days leading up to the tournament while they were in the D.C. area. 

“When we were there, every day prior to the tournament, we ran every single event and made sure they were smooth and within the time limit,” head coach John Nash said. “There was very little tweaking, and it was more for polish.”

We all kind of agreed it’s the smoothest nationals we ever had.”

MV speech team captain Aidan McGuire

Nash says the team arrived in Bethesda ahead of the tournament to shift their focus away from school and work and onto the tournament. He was impressed with the team’s unity.

“I think it was the best, most supportive team we ever had,” he said. “When someone was down, they brought them back up.”

Moraine alum Damian Samsonowicz, who was part of the team eight years ago, helped coach this year’s team.

“It’s so awesome to be on the other side of it and seeing all the hard work they have done,” Samsonowicz said. “You want to see the students succeed and feel all the things you felt when you were a competitor.”

With success, however, can come feelings of inadequacy, as Ocampo discovered following his Duo performance with teammate Gabe Dunkle. The event is done with two performers and must be memorized. Their scene came from the play “Downstate” by Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris.

Photo by Aidan McGuire
Aidan McGuire, Damian Samsoniwicz, and Kandyce Swain recreate the iconic Spiderman meme during nationals.

“[It’s] about this guy named Andy confronting his sexual abuser who abused him when he was 12,” Ocampo said. “It’s essentially about mercy and forgiveness and if a person can truly have compassion for someone that doesn’t deserve it.”

Ocampo played Andy and Dunkle played Fred, Andy’s former music teacher and abuser. The performance took third place, but Ocampo believed it was better than that.

“It was beautiful,” Ocampo said. “It was so good. It should’ve won.” He said it was the one event he was “going to nationals for,” and it was beaten by two comedies, one about butts and the other about abortions. 

Team newcomer Lydia Garcia earned Gold in Persuasive Speaking for her speech about sexual abuse in the military. Garcia originally gave the speech at Moraine’s Take Back the Night rally on April 5. She said she is going to make it her life’s goal to eradicate military sexual assault by reaching out survivors of abuse and volunteering at local sexual assault advocacy groups.

“I joined the forensics team because I have always had this passion and this love, this desire for public speaking,” Garcia said. “I love being on stage. The feeling of empowerment I get from being up in front of an audience and having my voice heard, it’s a feeling that’s unmatched. 

“At the time I didn’t realize that it would not only be my voice being heard, but also the voices of silenced victims.”

After only being on the team for four months, Garcia has already realized the importance of using your voice to empower yourself and others. Nash relayed this message during the team’s sightseeing to teach a lesson.

“When we were there, we talked about the importance of having a voice and sharing your truth and ideas and not being censored,” Nash said. “So sightseeing was a lot of fun and also beneficial.”

The coaches were impressed by their students’ ability to use their voices at a national level.

“They continue to surprise us by how good they are,” Samsonowicz said. “I think walking into a new season with new students, you don’t know what they are capable of.”