Two Speech Members Heading to Nationals

Ally Piatkowski

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Coffee in Columbus
December 18, 2020

Senior Sierra Roberts and sophomore Gracie Brady qualify for nationals. // Photo provided by Gracie Brady

On June 15 to 19 of 2020, hundreds of speech qualifiers will be headed to New Mexico to compete in speech nationals. Two of those qualifiers include sophomore Gracie Brady and senior Sierra Roberts.

When joining the speech team during her freshman year, Gracie Brady never expected to have adopted such a passion for the program.

“I really wanted a letter and thought it was the easiest way to get one and not do a sport,” Brady said. “But soon after starting, I fell in love with speech. I’m able to express my views in a creative way and not be interrupted.” 

The speech team poses for a picture. // Photo provided by Gracie Brady

Alongside Brady, Roberts spent her junior year as a foreign exchange student and her remaining three years on the speech team.

“This year when I got to meet Sierra she definitely lived up to the expectations I had. She places well in every single meet she competes in, which is especially amazing since she hasn’t done the same event twice,” Hope Durnil said. 

Durnil is a second-year member on the speech team and enjoyed being able to look up to both Brady and Roberts during the year. 

The speech team is a competitive activity where students work to improve public speaking and other communication skills. Participants can compete in fourteen events, but choose one or two events to compete in each season, similar to track and field. 

Senior Maya Federle, senior Sierra Roberts and sophomore Gracie Brady sit.

Each event is broken up into three main categories, one being platform speaking, where the student writes the piece themselves and memorizes it. The second category is interpretive, which is like acting and can include more dramatic or humorous pieces that are memorized or scripted. The final category is the preparation events. In this category, students have limited time to prepare and are most of the time given current events or political questions to answer.

“The speech team is a family. We all support and love one another like family but we also have disagreements like one as well. At the end of the day we all love, support and help one another through whatever we may be going through whether that be home life, school wise or speech wise,” Brady said. 

During this year, the speech team had around 20 competitors. The season lasted from October through March, with two practices a week, two meets and two Saturdays a month from November through January. 

Assuming that the quarantine order is lifted by then, Brady and Roberts, along with the coaching staff, will fly to New Mexico in June. 

The girls will compete in two days of competition then there will be a break where half the competitors will be eliminated,” Allana Heath said. “There will be another day of competition and then another half will be eliminated again. This process will continue until there are only six final contestants in each event.”  

As one of the coaches for the speech team, Heath has seen tremendous progress from both of the girls this season. 

Both of these two are really amazing at picking you up when you’re down. Sierra gives great pep talks, and never fails to remind you how amazing you are. She’s especially been helpful to me in giving me the confidence that it takes to do well in my event when I’m having an off day,” Durnil said. “Gracie is just a truly bubbly and happy person, which really helps the morale of the team. Our team is a lot more cheerful and positive because she’s on it.” 

Senior Maya Federle, senior Sierra Roberts and sophomore Gracie Brady sit. // Photo provided by Gracie Brady

Throughout the struggles, Brady explained that her journey to nationals took time and patience. Last year she did not place, but improved tremendously this year, as she ribboned in every single one.

I’m into politics and I love expressing my views on events going on in the United States and the world. Speech has helped me learn how to control my feelings so I can come across clearly. It’s also helped me organize my thoughts so I’m able to speak with confidence and clarity,” Brady said. 

Brady vividly remembers the day that she found out she qualified for nationals. 

“When I was on stage I’d hold my breath every time they’d announce the placing. When they were getting ready to announce third place my legs felt like jello. Then they said third-place name and it took me about 30 seconds to realize that my name hadn’t been called,” Brady said. “That’s when the tears started.”

In reflection about her season, Brady stated that she is unbelievably thankful for her experience with the program. 

“Going to Nationals is a huge confidence booster. It makes me feel like I am capable of doing great things. It makes me feel empowered and like I am able to make a difference with my words,” Brady said. 

For more information and updates on Nationals, visit