by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell-St. Stephen Speech Team, fresh from three first-place wins, is unique this season for a number of reasons: At 21 members, it’s the largest team in the past 10 years, and it happens to be quite the “family affair” with three siblings from each of two families.
The champion speech-givers will host a free open house for the public starting at 3:40 p.m. Monday, April 9 at Sartell High School, Rooms C232 and C233. At the open house, visitors will have the chance to hear, first-hand, why the team has won such a slew of team and individual awards.
Earlier this season, the team placed first at the Princeton and Cathedral meets and was the runner-up at the Becker meet. Just last weekend, the team scored another first-place honor at the Milaca meet.
At that meet, there were also two individual champion awards given to Ellie Stang for the “Great Speeches” category and Regan Dockery for the “Original Oratory” category. Darin Lunde was named runner-up in the “Prose” category.
Together, the Stangs and Dockerys comprise slightly more than one-fourth of the team’s membership. Ricky Stang is a senior member while his sisters – twins Ellie and Ann, juniors – are also on the team.
The Dockery family members are Tyler, a junior; and her younger siblings – Regan, a 9th-grader, and Jordan, a 7th-grader.
Another honor picked up by team members occurred at the conference meet March 13 at Rocori High School, Cold Spring.
Five Sartell team members were named “All-Conference.” They are Jessica Davidson for Humorous Speech, Regan Dockery for Original Oratory, Tyler Dockery for Extemporaneous Reading and Prose, Brooke Radi for Creative Expression and Ellie Stang for Great Speeches.
The team’s next meet is at Dassel-Cokato. The Sectional meet is set for April 12 in Detroit Lakes, and the state meet will take place April 20-21 at Chanhassen High School.
The team’s head coach is John Ronyak, who has coached the team ever since he was hired at the high school – his first two years as assistant coach, the last seven years as head coach.
This year, his assistant coach, Taisha Traut, is a former speech student of Ronyak’s in 2007 who just recently earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Cloud State University.
Ronyak is obviously impressed by the achievements of this year’s speech team.
“I’m excited for the kids,” he said. “We had a really successful year.”
Ronyak said the team’s success is even more impressive because the team is in the most competitive and difficult of the two speech divisions – Division AA. In that division are the two teams widely regarded as the toughest, most competitive in the state – St. Cloud Tech and Moorhead.
In high-school football terms, Moorhead and Tech are considered the “Eden Prairie of speech teams,” as Ronyak put it.
Both Tech and Moorhead are members of the National Forensics League, which has different rules and requires students to develop and polish their speeches much earlier than other teams in the division.
“I’m not saying that’s unfair,” Ronyak said. “But they do put a lot more time into their speeches, and my students – for the times they put in – have been incredibly successful. At the sectional and state meets, we are hoping to make some noise.”
Two of the award-winning speeches this year are those written by Ellie Stang and Regan Dockery. Stang’s category, Great Speeches, required her to choose a great speech and then quote from the speech while analyzing its effectiveness for her listeners. She chose “The Decline of English” by the late New York Times columnist William Safire.
In his speech, written in 1978, Safire discussed how the use of the English language has been eroded by the use of the telephone. In her speech, Stang extends Safire’s insights into the use of texting and other electronic forms of communication.
In Regan Dockery’s Original Oratory and persuasive speech, she tells her listeners why it is so important to stay updated on current events and how vital it is to remain balanced when being inundated with so many news sources, especially on the Internet when news and comments are often less than accurate or reliable.