by Jillian Corozzo '16
On Jan. 15, five Fontbonne seniors, myself included, flew to San Francisco, California to compete in a national speech and debate tournament held at Stanford University in Palo Alto. We approached this tournament with a relaxed attitude, one that fit the ideology of “whatever happens, happens.” After all, we would still be spending the weekend on the west coast-which had the perks of being three hours behind eastern time and having countless accessibility to In-N-Out Burger. Despite this, our small but mighty team emerged victorious, even 2,900 miles away from home.
Speech, otherwise referred to as “Forensics”, could be described as competitive acting. A competitor is given a passage with a duration of ten minutes to be performed either individually, with a partner or whilst holding a binder. While we compete in local Brooklyn-Queens tournaments alongside schools such as Xaverian High School, interleague tournaments alongside schools from Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island, and state-wide tournaments, Fontbonne speech has gone the extra mile. Fontbonne’s speech team has competed at numerous tournaments nationwide, which are often held at prestigious universities. Some tournament locations include Yale University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. The team has triumphed at all of these competitive tournaments, consistently advancing to quarter-finals, semi-finals, and even placing in the top seven of their respective categories. We’ve seen and done this all before.
Stanford, however, was our first time on completely unfamiliar territory. Even though we went to the National Catholic Forensics League tournament held in Fort Lauderdale, FL last year, we had no idea what to expect whilst competing in California.
After an exhausting Saturday filled with preliminary rounds, we received our first round of good news. Senior Gabrielle Buenerd, competing in a category she has never done before, advanced to the semi-finals, an elimination round for the top 12 competitors according to prior rankings. “Stanford was unlike any other tournament we have competed at.” Gabrielle says, “Competing on the other side of the country with people we had never seen before and some of the best competitors in the country was such an incredible experience that I am very thankful for.”
I advanced to semi-finals about half an hour after Gabrielle found out about her advancement. I was shocked, being that I competed against people who I truly thought surpassed my talent and acting abilities. However, I went into that round cool, calm, and collected. Being overwhelmed by even more talent and technique in the round I just competed in, I didn’t expect to advance. I thought breaking into the top 14 was more than enough.
That night, at round 10 P.M., we found out who would go to the final rounds: the ultimate face-off between the top seven in each category. The duo team of Gabrielle Buenerd and Mikayla DeLorenzo had outstanding rankings and successfully executed their first day of preliminary rounds. Their talent and chemistry working together as a team truly made them stand out. It was the duo team of seniors Jade Gallo and Emily LoCascio who took a spot in the final round. “It was so cool to compete in [Palo Alto] where my personal idol, James Franco, was born. I hope to one day follow in his footsteps and coming in fifth place in duo has made me realize my dream can be achieved.” says Jade. The team gave an incredible performance that radiated all the hard work they put into their piece, despite the challenge of being in a round with some of the most successful duo teams in the nation.
When I heard that I advanced to the final round, I had no words. I had just had some of the most difficult rounds I’ve ever had in my entire speech career, yet I was able to get high enough ranks to be placed in the top seven. My final round was stacked with people well-known for giving compelling performances and having a track record filled with national championship titles galore. I gave my performance to my best ability and told myself that I would be lucky to place in the top four. I would have never in a million years have expected to dominate that final and win the entire tournament, coming in first place. When I was up on that platform and they announced my name, I was in utter disbelief. It was truly one of the most exhilarating yet rewarding experiences and I felt like my three years of hard work all came together in that moment.
The team would not be as successful as we are and have been without the guidance from our coach, Mr. Herron. We would not stay sane on these weekends of tournaments if it wasn’t for our designated speech chaperone, Ms. Marinello. Although the seniors have merely five tournaments left, we plan on taking in each and every moment, hopefully of victory, yet to come.