Tusky Valley speech team off to a great start

Tusky Valley speech team off to a great start

Ellie Dorsey


It’s been a very different first half of the speech season this year. With COVID still keeping people separated, schools have resorted to conducting their speech and debate tournaments online. Several tournaments were held online with the first outbreak this spring, but speaking to a camera instead of a roomful of students and judges has since become the norm.

What’s not different this year is the track record of wins the Tusky Valley team continues to accumulate. While they’re not racking up miles on the school bus traveling from school to school, they are certainly racking up success after success.

Now in its ninth year under coach Carrie Spina, the team routinely sends students to the state and national competitions. In addition to competing against students from other schools in Northeast Ohio, some students are competing in tournaments that are part of the National Speech & Debate Association’s national circuit.

Tougher and more demanding than local tournaments, the national circuit contests give students a larger stage in which to be seen and allow them to compete against some of the best speakers in the nation.

The national circuit also is a feeder tournament into the national Tournament of Champions. Tusky Valley has had several students compete on the national circuit in past years. This year Brianna Swinford, Ellie Dorsey and Zoe McConaha are taking their speeches on the circuit.

Again this season, Swinford is captivating judges everywhere with her performances in the Humor category. She took first place in the George Mason University national circuit tournament. She also made it into the semi-final round in the Glenbrooks national circuit tournament, placing eighth out of 96 speakers in her category. In addition, she grabbed first place at Copley and at Hawken, second place at Wadsworth, and third at Tusky Valley and McKinley.

Swinford most recently came in third at a national circuit tournament through the University of Nebraska. At the end of last season, she was ranked 11th in the nation.

Ellie Dorsey, whose category is Informative, also is leaving competitors in the dust. Dorsey made the semifinals at George Mason, quarters at Glenbrooks, third at McKinley, second at Hawken and Wadsworth, and the top six every week.

“Our seniors are having a great year,” Spina said. “Brianna Swinford has already qualified to nationals this year because she did so well at nationals last year.”

Teammates placing at various tournaments this year include Olivia Burgess in Drama, Kaleah Dorsey in Humor, Laura Wallace in Declamation and McConaha in Program of Oral Interpretation.

“We have students placing in the top six every week,” Spina said. “Each student competes against anywhere from 40-80 students in their category per week.”

Teamwork pays off

While there are always stars on any team, everyone’s scores count toward team placement in what is called Team Sweepstakes. The better each team member does, the better the whole team does.

With its small speech team and no debate team to help out, Tusky Valley has struggled to place in sweepstakes — until this year.

So far the team has tied for first place among small schools at the Wadsworth tournament, tying for seventh overall. They’ve also placed 14th out of 41 schools at McKinley, eighth at Hawken and fourth at Copley.

When asked how she thought the team would fare overall this season, Spina said, “We should have most of our team qualify to state this year. They’ve all been getting great scores. I would love to qualify more to nationals and wouldn’t be surprised if we do. Dreams come true on this team; we’ve proven that over the past nine years.”

Team members and their categories

Humor: Swinford, Zach Leshon, Kaleah Dorsey and Danny Armstrong.

Informative: Ellie Dorsey, Isabella Drummer and Corrine Hamilton.

Declamation: Wallace.

Drama: Burgess.

U.S. Extemporaneous: Elizabeth Angione.

Original Oratory: Paige Price and Griffin McConaha.

Program of Oral Interpretation: Zoe McConaha and Reed Maloon.

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