Superior, Northwestern forensics teams bring home awards
Students say the activity boosts confidence and interpersonal skills.
MAPLE — Forensics teams scored big in state competition April 21-22.
All 11 members of the Northwestern High School team and all 13 members of the Superior High School team made it to state competition in DeForest, just outside Madison.
The Tigers returned with perfect scores for senior Ella Cain’s solo acting piece, junior Mateo Stauffenecker’s original prose work and the play acting group of freshmen Claire Germano and Hailey Gilderman. Each earned 25 points, or gold.
Informative speeches by Claire Farnham and Sam Brill, a "Moments in History" piece by Ethan Evavold and a group interpretive reading piece by Lili Sakuray and Leah Gavin each earned 25 points, and top honors, for the Spartans.
In Superior, every senior who participated was a first-year speaker, and nine of the 13 forensics competitors were brand-new to the team this year, according to coach Rachael Holden-Kaufman.
Longtime NHS coach Pat Luostari said their team is in the rebuilding phase following 2020, when the pandemic shut down competition, and 2021, when students submitted their work digitally.
Her co-coach, Adam Helbach, said students at Northwestern often have to fit forensics practice in around their other activities, from the annual musical to softball practice. "Most of them are involved in so many other things. We get them when we can," Helbach said. He credited their success to talent and hard work.
For Sheila Gregerson, a senior at NHS, a score of 24, or silver, capped off her eighth year of participating in forensics. It's offered a confidence boost, a chance to hang out with friends and a peek into her future.
"I'm going to be a music education major and a theater arts minor. So this is what I want to do," Gregerson said. "I want to be that theater coach. I want to be that forensics coach for, like, future generations."
Cain said being involved in forensics has raised her confidence and empathy, as well as her interpersonal skills.
"In solo acting, you have a story that you're trying to portray and so like empathizing with the character and the audience helps to make it come to life," Cain said.
In addition to getting top honors, Cain earned what Helbach called the “super gold.” She was one of 11 high school seniors statewide honored by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Speech and Dramatic Arts Association this spring for earning the top forensics score all four years of high school. She took home a gold medal in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and advanced to the district contest during the 2020 season before it was interrupted.
Something for everyone
Forensics "casts a wide net," according to NHS senior Asher Gilderman, who earned 24 points, or silver, for his protest speech against the letter "Q." The after-school activity encompasses a range of options, from informational speeches to group acting.
"There's a lot of variety there," Gilderman said.
Stauffenecker turned an English assignment into an original prose piece about cannibalism. It involved paring down a 12-minute, 33-second speech into eight minutes. Gregerson strung together a trio of short poems by Rudyard Kipling, John O'Donohue and Patricia A. Fleming for her senior year-themed poetry performance. Junior Linnea Smith earned a bronze at state for her prose reading of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton.
Stauffenecker said the smaller, more personal forensics performances have helped him feel more comfortable on stage when acting or singing.
"I'm kind of in the same boat as Mateo, in that I was a more reserved and shy freshman and I used this avenue of expression," Cain said. "I found that I really enjoy, like interacting with the audience like that. It helps you understand people."
Forensics is a team activity, the students said. "Even if you're doing individual things, you're still one unit because you want to see each other succeed," Gregerson said.
They listen to each other's speeches and give feedback. "We cheer, we laugh for them and I think just having a family like that, being part of something, like, that special is really what forensics is about," Gregerson said.
Superior state scores
- Alaina Edge, Solo Acting, Bronze
- Alex Lane, Prose Reading (original work), Bronze
- Liv Strand, Informative, Bronze
- River Opack and Tessa Christian, Group Interpretive Reading, Bronze
- Axol Edenfield, Solo Acting, Silver
- Emily Cockerham, Poetry Reading (original work), Silver
- Jasen Bruzek, Oratory, Silver
- Lili Sakuray and Leah Gavin, Group Interpretive Reading, Gold
- Claire Farnham, Informative, Gold
- Ethan Evavold, Moments in History, Gold
- Sam Brill, Informative, Gold
Northwestern state scores
- Maija Korpi, Storytelling, Bronze
- Linnea Smith, Prose, Bronze
- Asher Gilderman, Special Occasion, Silver
- Sheila Gregerson, Poetry, Silver
- Anneke Hoegen, Prose, Silver
- Joshua Hanson, Informative, Silver
- Francesca Germano, Informative, Silver
- Ella Cain, Solo Acting, Gold
- Mateo Stauffenecker, Prose, Gold
- Claire Germano and Hailey Gilderman, Play Acting, Gold
Two photo captions in this story were updated at 10:15 a.m. May 9 to clarify that they were contributed by the Superior School District. The story was originally posted at 6 a.m. May 9.