by REAGAN MOTSINGER
WESTFIELD, Ind. (May 2019) - I sat down with WHS Speech State Champion Bridget Arnold (12) to discuss her experience with Speech and Debate and her exciting accomplishments this year.
Q: Why did you start doing speech? What about it appealed to you?
A: I did the 4-H public speaking contest when I was in middle school, and I really liked that. I always kind of enjoyed giving presentations in class, so I had heard about the callout meeting for the Speech and Debate team, and I thought it might be something I’d be interested in, so I hunted down the teachers and went to the callout and went from there.
Q: Was that your freshman year?
A: That was my freshman year, fall of my freshman year.
Q: What has been your greatest memory with speech?
A: Oh my goodness. There's a lot of good stories that I could tell you, but I think my favorite memory-- Either freshman or sophomore year-- Actually no. My first meet ever, the first time I ever competed was October of my freshman year, and I didn't know anybody, and I barely knew Robinson and Reineking, and it was a Halloween-themed meet. So Mrs. Reineking dressed up as Harley Quinn and had her roller skates on, and coming in as a freshman and a total noob who had no idea what she was doing, that was kind of a “Wow, this is a really unique kind of thing that we’re doing here,” so that’s probably my favorite memory. Reineking is so cool.
Q: She sounds like it! What’s your favorite event? Why do you like it the most?
A: I’ve competed in poetry, original oratory and informative, and so far I think my favorite has been informative. Ironically this is the first and last year I’ll do it. I didn't start it until this year. Okay, so in informative speaking, you have an informative speech and then you also get a visual aid, so it combines the research and speech writing aspects that I really like with the artistic creativity that comes with making posters and visual aids to go along with your speech.
Q: Why was this the first year that you did informative speaking?
A: As a freshman, when I joined, I was playing soccer and basketball. I was really busy, busier than usual, so I picked poetry because it wasn't a memorized event, so I had a book with me and could see that if I forgot what I was supposed to say. I stuck with poetry and had some moderate success, and then junior year I decided I needed to double enter and do two events, so I picked oratory because it was most like the 4-H speeches I had given. So when I found out that I really liked and had some success in original oratory, I also found out about informative, which included the visual aid aspect, and I decided that poetry wasn't really working for me, and I was going to focus on info and original oratory from then on.
Q: What was your favorite speech you performed for the informative event?
A: Probably the one I’ve written. It's the same speech the entire season. It’s a speech about peanuts at the very beginning, and I've just kind of tweaked it and made little improvements ever since, so I guess it's automatically my favorite, but I've had a lot of success with it, and it's a really fun speech to give. I enjoy talking about it and getting to do it.
Q: Can you give me a little more detail about this peanut speech?
A: I was diagnosed with a peanut allergy when I was three years old, and I didn't really realize until probably middle school that it kind of set me apart quite a bit from other people, and I also didn't realize how much people didn't know about allergies, especially because peanut allergies have really increased a lot in the last decade or so. I was sort of inspired. I call my speech “informa-narrative” because it's a little bit of personal experience interwoven with research and studies and scientific explanations. I talk about the science of allergies, what happens in our bodies to make us react like that, and then I talk about the culture, which is a lot of teens who take risks because they want to feel included, and then I talk about what to do in an emergency--how do you react when someone is going into anaphylactic shock? So it's a little bit of a step-by-step, but a bit of my personal experiences, the times I’ve eaten peanuts, and the goofy stories that I have to go with it. My main goal was to make a topic that's really serious and really scary into something that felt approachable and was kind of funny and lighthearted and interesting without making people feel guilty or scared or upset while they're listening to it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good time.
Q: How did you feel when you found out you were going to Nationals?
A: Oh my goodness, I was shocked. So, District competition, I went into it knowing that, you know, I thought I had a chance. I had been doing pretty well up to then, and I was like, “I think there's a way. I think I could make it if I have a really good day.” I guess I showed up to District and had the most incredible day of my life because I was getting ones in every round. It was kind of surreal for them to call my name up there and be like, “Your event champion from Westfield High School, Bridget Arnold.” Our team has never gone to District before since it’s kind of a big commitment, and so to sort of be the first one to do that and have that opportunity and to have that kind of success, I was blown away. I mean, I was hugging strangers, peers, there was a lot of screaming, my mom freaked out, it was cool. It was really cool.
Q: How did you place at the State and District competitions?
A: District qualifies for Nationals through a different program than Sectionals and State. So the Indiana High School Forensics Association is Sectionals and State. So I qualified for State in informative speaking, and that day-- I’ve been to State before, and that day, my goal was just to make it to semifinals because I’d made it to quarters before, but I’d never gone to semis, and I was like, “Just try to be better than I was the year before.” So that was really my biggest goal. And when I broke to semifinals, I was happy. I was like, “Hey, this is great! This is my goal. Anything else that happens is just a cherry on top.” And so I went into my semifinals round, and then my final round with this mindset of, “Hey, this is one of the last times you’re gonna give this speech. Try to enjoy this. Try to savor this and soak up the environment and just enjoy yourself.” And I guess that mindset really worked because when they started calling off names when we were on stage for the final round, and they were rattling off sixth place, fifth place, fourth place, they didn’t say my name. And I just kept standing there, waiting to hear “From Westfield, Bridget Arnold,” and then they announced me as event champion. There’s a video actually. My eyes just kinda get wider and wider, and I stand there in a little bit of shock, and they hand me this big ol’ honkin’ trophy. It was really surreal because I knew it was a good speech, I didn’t know it was that good of a speech. I didn’t know I could do that. And the really weird part is that I went from being--I had mono in January and February, and I went from being completely debilitated with mono to event champion and State Champion in speech in about a month. A month-long period of time between those two events. That was a little bit weird too. Whiplash.
Q: How are you preparing for Nationals?
A: I've done some really tiny tweaks with my speech. I’ve changed some wording in places. I've kind of cleaned up my boards a little bit, finalized some things on there. Robinson and Reineking got me a new easel, which was super exciting, and it’s really honestly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Honestly, there’s a lot more travel prep involved than actual speech prep. This speech, I've done it so many times, so many times, so I’m not real worried about getting it. It’s just a lot of, “Okay, where are we staying the night? What are we eating?” I have to write a works cited for my speech. I gotta get ready to pack and stuff, so it’s kind of a lot of travel prep more than speech and debate prep.
Q: Good luck! Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
A: I’m really excited to be getting to go with the other people who qualified for Nationals, Ben [Rascon Gracia (11)] and Elaine Quirke (10) and Sabrina Richard (9), and I’m really excited to represent the school like this. It’s crazy that it’s never happened before, and we’re a pretty young team still, so to have this kind of opportunity is kinda out of this world. Also, I’m really thankful for the past four years I got with speech and debate, the people I met and the time I got to spend with Robinson and Reineking, and just the experience as a whole has been really positive for me. I’m really excited. It’s gonna be great. An adventure for the books.