Free State speech and forensics team wins second straight 6A state title

photo by: Contributed photo

Team members of Free State High School's speech and forensics team are seen during the 6A state championship on May 3, 2021. The team clinched its second straight overall team title during the tournament.

Free State High School’s speech and forensics team successfully defended its reign as the best in the state, despite having to wait two years to do so.

The Firebirds clinched a second straight 6A state championship in speech on Saturday. The team won the competition by scoring 415 points, coach Kelly Thompson said in an email to the Journal-World. The second place team, Garden City, finished more than 100 points behind with a total score of 280, he said.

“I am unbelievably proud of the work that our students and coaches have done throughout the course of the season; and I am happy for them that that work paid off this weekend,” Thompson said in the email.

The team competed in 18 events, with the members qualifying in the top 10 in each of them. Three Free State team members won state titles in their individual events: Timothy Huffman won the domestic extemporaneous; Emily Bial won program of oral interpretation; and Molly Roecker won poetry.

Additionally, Lawrence High School’s Gretchen Bannwarth won the state title for prose interpretation, LHS coach Jeff Plinsky said.

The overall team championship is Free State’s second in three years, with the team previously winning in the 2019 tournament. However, the team has won back-to-back titles because the 2020 event was canceled after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bial said prior to the tournament the team believed it had a chance to repeat winning the state title in 2020. But with the tournament canceled, she said the team hoped to make up for it this spring. But, Thompson, the Free State coach, said Monday defending the title was not easy.

“When the season started, we were unsure of where we’d be by the end, given the deep senior class we graduated in 2020, but our students set a goal, and they listened to their coaches and judges throughout the season to make changes necessary to reach that goal,” Thompson said.

With another state title in the bag, the Free State team will now focus on the 2021 National Individual Events Tournament of Champions, which begins Tuesday.

As the Journal-World previously reported, the Free State team qualified for 17 events at the tournament this year, which broke the team’s previous record of 14 events.

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