Speaking up. Lemont High School speech team successful at state competition

For the second time in three seasons, Lemont High School’s speech team advanced qualifiers to state finals competition in a program record four events.

At the 2024 IHSA speech state finals, which were contested on Feb. 16-17 at the Peoria Civic Center, senior Alana Nisperos became just the second student in program history to compete in two state finals events in the same season, and the first to qualify in the same event twice in her career. Seniors Emmie Hunnewell and Max Schuette made their state finals debuts.

Nisperos placed seventh in Informative Speaking, a category in which students are given limited preparation time to select a topic and prepare to deliver an original speech indicating their knowledge of abstract ideas concerning an assigned topic. The first student in program history to qualify for the state finals twice in the same category, she finished ninth in Informative Speaking as a sophomore in 2022.

Nisperos also placed ninth in Impromptu Speaking, a category in which students provide an original expository oral presentation using their own content, format, style and thoughts. She joins Delia Ercoli ‘11 as the only Lemont students to compete in two state finals events in the same year.

Hunnewell was seventh in Oratorical Declamation, a category in which students present persuasive or inspirational material of literary merit, such as editorials, essays or speeches, originally prepared by another person.

Schuette was 15th in Extemporaneous Speaking, a category in which participants are given 45 minutes to prepare an original speech indicating their knowledge of current events concerning an assigned topic.

For the first time, Lemont had two sectional champions in one year, as Nisperos (Informative Speaking) and Schuette each won their events at the IHSA Thornton Sectional. Nisperos also was third in Impromptu Speaking, as was Hunnewell in her event. Head coach Phil Lazzari’s team has sent an entry to state finals competition in 11 of 16 seasons.

Lemont was the runner-up at the IHSA Joliet Central Regional. Schuette and senior Tess O’Brien (Humorous Interpretation) won regional titles. Lemont advanced competitors to sectional competition in 14 of 15 events.

Lazzari’s team won its 15th straight South Suburban Conference-Blue Division title this season. Hunnewell, Nisperos (Impromptu Speaking) and O’Brien all were SSC champions.

Lemont’s state medalists have included Ercoli (2nd, Informative Speaking, 2011), Reema Dhawan ‘20 (3rd, Special Occasion Speaking, 2020), Kiara Hardy ‘17 (4th, Oratorical Declamation, 2017), Nour Longi ‘21 (6th, Radio Speaking, 2021), Ryan Luzzo ‘14 (6th, Prose Reading, 2013), Aubree Tally ‘13 (3rd, Humorous Interpretation, 2011), and Performance in the Round (3rd, 2021). It had multiple state medalists in the same season in 2011 and 2021.

Additional state finals qualifiers have included Ercoli (Oratorical Declamation, 2011), Longi (Original Oratory, 2020), Tally (Dramatic Interpretation, 2013), Devin Becker ‘17 (Prose Reading, 2017), Bryan Carver ‘09 (Humorous Interpretation, 2009), Elle Jeffress ‘23 (Poetry Reading, 2021; Special Occasion Speaking, 2022), Hailey Jones ‘17 (Informative Speaking, 2017), Nick Lambrakis ‘15 (Oratorical Declamation, 2014; Dramatic Interpretation, 2015), Peter Marzano ‘14 (Extemporaneous Speaking, 2014), Melissa Nuñez (Impromptu Speaking, 2022), Lauren Rearden ‘21 (Humorous Interpretation, 2020), current senior Destina Sarussi (Dramatic Interpretation, 2022), Grace Smiles ‘18 (Dramatic Interpretation, 2018) and Becca Zagorski ‘15 (Radio Speaking, 2015).

Nisperos is the first Lemont student to compete in three state finals events, while Ercoli, Jeffress, Lambrakis, Longi and Tally each qualified twice. Nisperos, Schuette, Dhawan (Special Occasion Speaking, 2020), Lambrakis (Oratorical Declamation, 2014) and Longi (Radio Speaking, 2021) are the only Lemont students to win an IHSA Sectional title.

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