The Speech and Debate Team at Catholic Memorial has now won the state championship four of the past five years.
West Roxbury, Mass.— Masks, social distancing, hybrid learning, Zooming. They're the buzzwords of our time, and each their own complex challenge to make regularly-scheduled school programming happen as usual.
They proved no permanent roadblock for the students of Catholic Memorial's School Speech and Debate Team, who — as usual — excelled in numerous performances to win the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League (MSDL) state championship in the Speech Division.
It's the fourth time in five years CM has claimed the title.
"It meant so much," said Amari Stuppard '21 of Randolph. "After all this hard work and devotion, we overcame all our obstacles."
Gathering in the Ronald S. Perry Gymnasium Sunday evening, 20 members of the Speech team waited with bated breath as the school winners of the tournament were announced. After Milton Academy was proclaimed the second place finisher, cheers erupted at Baker Street.
"Being there, with all of them, especially in the midst of COVID, really brought a humongous sense of camaraderie that I've never felt before," Amari said. "It felt amazing." Learn more about CM's Speech & Debate Team >
West Roxbury native Sean Fay '22 earned the top spot in Impromptu, while Colin Bligh '23, Medfield, won in the category of Radio Broadcasting. Co-captain Nick Olwell '21 of Dedham followed up on his first place finish in Programmed Oral Interpretation last spring with another first place finish, this year in Poetry. He also finished fourth place in Prose.
Pat Blomberg, a freshman from Wellesley, won second place in Play Reading, and Amari Stuppard '21 of Randolph earned a silver in Poetry.
For Coach Br. Anthony Cavet, the team's success comes down to the determination and commitment of the students to work together and make each other better.
"This team is largely peer-coached," Br. Cavet says. "Seniors love to practice with the younger students. They say, 'Give me somebody to train.'"
"They want acolytes," he jokes.
This group of CM students use other resources, too, reaching out to alumni on the team before them for feedback.
But this year, for obvious reasons, proved a more challenging journey than usual. Unlike last year's virtual tournament, where students could practice together in-person up until mid-March, the 2021 competitors had to work around a full year of the pandemic. CM's preparation for the school year through its hybrid-learning model gave students the opportunity to see each other and interact safely on campus, but it's a different challenge to perform with the required masks. It meant figuring out new ways to communicate, to read each other and adapt.
For students performing in pairs or groups, that meant extra reliance on technology to record themselves in different rooms and align with the MSDL's safety precautions. But the extra effort paid off with top-notch results, and the season isn't over yet — several students making up the 45-member squad will also go on to compete in online national tournaments in May and June.
This is the second back-to-back top finish for the Knights. In 2020, CM claimed the state title
with a narrow four-point margin over reigning state champion Shrewsbury High School, 260-256. Shrewsbury had taken the top spot and dropped CM to second place in 2019 after the Knights had won back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018.
For CM seniors, this team victory proved to be a fulfilling ending to an otherwise disrupted year.
Or as the team's motto this year proclaims, "Living well is the best revenge."CM's individual accolades in the tournament include:
- Nick Olwell '21, co-captain (Dedham): Poetry Reading, 1st Place, and Prose Reading, 4th Place
- Sean Fay '22 (West Roxbury) Impromptu, 1st Place
- Colin Bligh '23 (Medfield): Radio Broadcasting, 1st Place
- Amari Stuppard '21 (Randolph) Poetry Reading, 2nd Place
- Pat Blomberg '24 (Wellesley) Play Reading, 2nd Place, and Best Novice
- James Julian '22 (Needham) and Will Cummings '23 (Westwood): Duo Interpretation, 3rd Place
- Aidan Healy '22 (Dedham): Extemporaneous Speaking, 3rd Place
- Ben Kimball '21, co-captain (Norfolk): Original Oratory, 3rd Place, and Dramatic Interpretation, 6th place
- Luke Esposito '21, co-captain (West Roxbury): Prose Reading, 3rd Place
- Samuel Cahill-Farella '23 (Framingham): Radio Broadcasting, 3rd Place
- James Julian '22 (Needham): Dramatic Performance, 3rd Place, and Play Reading, 5th Place
- Christopher Lustig '23 (Dedham), Aaron Crowley '23 (Milton), William Masferrer '23 (Dorchester Center), and Johnny Cardarelli '23 (Brighton): Multiple Reading, 5th Place
- Joseph Cutting '23 (Needham), John Marcucci '22 (Medfield), and Sean Fay '22 (West Roxbury): Multiple Reading, 6th Place
- Ryan Horrigan '21 (Canton): Informative Speaking, 5th Place
- Luke Esposito '21 (West Roxbury) and Ben Kimball '21 (Norfolk), Duo Interpretation, 5th place
- Other semi-finalists and/or 7th place finishers: Giuseppe Presti '21 (Auburndale), Johnny Cardarelli '23 (Brighton), and Aidan Dever '23 (Walpole)