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Richwoods speech team success continues despite pandemic obstacles

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PEORIA (HOI) - The Richwoods High School speech team continues to thrive despite challenges posed by the pandemic.

Students from Richwood's speech team have made it to the state tournament for 11 years in a row and coming up this weekend is nationals.

Alyssa Emanuelson started coaching speech at Richwood's in 2010, and every year since, someone has made it to state.

Emanuelson says there's obstacles to overcome every season, but this year was a little different.

"It's a challenge because usually we're not virtual, we're in person," Emanuelson said.

Working through tech issues was one challenge the team has never faced before, and Emanuelson says, for the students, having to perform everything via Zoom can take away from their delivery.

"Body language is huge in speech, so you can say something a certain way, but you lose a lot of the body language and drawing people in to the audience," Emanuelson said.

Sophie Mura is one of the students who made it to the state tournament in February where she competed in impromptu speaking.

"You're given a quotation or a proverb. You're given two minutes to kind of analyze the quotation. Then you have to make a six minute speech in that two minute prep time," Mura said.

Mura says having to do everything on a webcam made this season a completely different experience.

"Obviously it's a different atmosphere. Usually you know, you can interact with the other competitors. You kind of develop friendships over the years so that's different. It's different not being able to warm up as a team and having to do that by yourself," Mura said.

But it also had its advantages.

"You're less intimidated. You can't really see other competitors usually. And you don't have to wait at the school all day, you can be comfortable in your own environment," Mura said.

Even through the obstacles, Mura finished in the top 25 in the state, and will compete in nationals on Saturday.

Gabi Guerrero

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