MUSCATINE — At 6 p.m. on the dot, a raucous storm of shouts, laughs, screams and claps takes over the silent auspices of the Muscatine High School Library.
They come in many forms. Some are paired up to enact scenes from plays. Others face a wall and deliver long monologues to the drywall. Some loud and excited. Others composed and sardonic. But for the next hour, all are expected to deliver a memorized performance to their peers.
The MHS Speech and Debate Team experienced a run of wins at the Dec. 2 competition in Davenport. The accolades poured in at such a high rate that some of the students began referring to the competition as the “Muscatine Deathmatch” tournament.
However, just a few days later, they are back at practice. Even with these wins in hand, students are not satiated. They know if they are going to keep it up, it's going to take even more practice.
Seery Awbrey, president of the Speech and Debate Team, said that committing to that practice time is not easy.
“It’s a really stressful time of year,” Awbrey said. “Show choir is in full swing. Finals are coming. And competitions often fall at the exact same times. It’s a struggle some of the time.”
She said that as high energy as they seem at practice, on the way to competition, that’s when the real sparks fly.
The team practices after school and even spends Sundays together.
“We have something called team bonding that we have every Sunday,” team member Daniel Salazar said. “And that usually takes place at Coach Davis’ (Schrock) house. We go and we play games with him. It helps us get to know one another so we are comfortable.”
Awbrey said that getting everyone comfortable in their own skin is an important barrier for them to overcome.
“A lot of people’s number one fear is public speaking,” Awbrey said. “Here we are forced to do that for each other literally almost every single day of the week. We don’t even have time to be afraid because we all have to just do it in front of each other.”
Many of the students chose to do humorous pieces, Kjirstin Osland, the team’s vice president likes to tackle bigger issues in her competitions. While most people pick from pieces that are already written, Osland has to write her own 10 minute speech and deliver it. Osland said she enjoys pushing the envelope.
“I’m really good at making people feel uncomfortable, apparently,” Osland said. “I’m just good at delivering bad news.”
Salazar said that students often choose pieces to deliver that resonate and reflect themselves — what they are interested in telling the world.
“Some people pick certain things for certain reasons,” Salazar said. “They do this because it’s something they understand. Something in their real life. It says something about who they are.”
“You can put in it whatever you have, whatever you are going through,” Salazar said. “You take it and you put it out there. You get it out.”
Even as one of the more overtly charismatic and outgoing students on the team, Salazar said the experiences here have impacted him immensely.
“It’s helped me come out of my shell,” Salazar said. “This has helped me realize that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be a little odd. Sometimes that’s a good thing. You can do things that other kids wouldn’t dream of doing.”