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Behind the Scenes: Ranger Voices

Seniors Katia Logan and Kai Canner-Bray sit and laugh together before their events start. (Madison Wetzel)

A Ranger voices competitor starts their day around 4 a.m. on competition days doing the things to prepare for the meet that weren’t done the night before such as packing formal clothes, snacks, water bottles, stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, books, and anything else they may require, showering, possible eating breakfast and say good-by to family members.
Some of the team gathers at the school’s D pod to collect materials, and others wait in the parking lot for speech coach DJ Wagner, also a bus driver for Livingston school district, to announce in the team’s group chat that their chariot awaits in the parking lot. The team loads the bus, the freshmen in the front and the team members with more seniority take up the back. The team settles in, some sleeping, eating breakfast or other snacks, practicing speeches, and warming up their voices in preparation for the competition. Many competitors like junior Lilly Minnick and senior Vicki Gasparakis feel too nervous about the upcoming day to eat and try to stay distracted on the bus ride.
The team arrives in whatever away town they will be competing in. Depending on the size of the meet, debate may be dropped off at a different school before the drama and speech teams are taken to the schools they will be competing in. It’s common for the team to arrive about an hour before the first round starts. Every meet is different but the first round normally begins around 8:30 for most events with extemporaneous draw starting thirty minutes before;some meets have debate events beginning early.
Entering the away school, the team locates the comments area and chooses a team area where all their things will reside while they compete. Team members change out of pajamas and comfortable clothes into formal outfits to compete. Many like seniors Leo Mitchell and Vicki Gasparakis do hair and makeup while they are waiting for rounds to be posted. Team members are given a speaker code unique to them at every event, consisting of a number representing the school and the initials of the competitor. They wait anxiously for an adult to start taping papers to the wall signaling rounds are being posted and will begin soon.
A crowd of competitors quickly gather around the pages, searching for their speaker codes to see what room and order they will be competing in. From there, supplies are gathered and everyone rushes to their rooms to wait for a judge to enter before they do so. The judges set up in the room and speaker codes are written on the board; Let the performances begin!
Speech drama and debate includes a myriad of events each with different competition requirements. After performing and watching their competition, the Voices return to comments at varying times to recharge for the next round. In the words of junior Lilly Minnick, “Caffeine is a staple in any speech kid’s diet.” It’s extremely important to stay well-fed and hydrated when competing, though many are too nervous or too busy to eat between rounds. Time is passed by talking to fellow competitors and practicing as they wait for postings for the second round. Rounds are posted and the process repeats two or three times before finals.
Everyone anxiously awaits for the finals round to be posted to see if their code has made the list of eight. Anyone who does not break finals will hurry to watch the finals of their event or follow a teammate who did break finals to support them. Once finals round is completed, the competitors have the most downtime they have had all day as they wait for results to be tabbed and the winners to be determined.
They begin to pack up their things, cleaning up the commons and waiting for a text that the bus is ready to be loaded. Drama kids that made it to finals will change into formal clothes while anyone certain they will not be on stage during awards changes out of them into more comfortable attire. Parts of the team slowly migrate to the room where awards will be held to save seats and await coaches’ entrance.
As the coaches of each school enter, their teams will stand up and chant. When senior Fiona Shinn spots coaches Keaton Ramm, JD Wagner, and Carmen Dunn, she stands and directs the rest of the Voices in a cheer of “GO, GO PARK HIGH RANGERS” as their coaches walk to their seats. Awards commence as someone from the school where the meet is held takes the mic and announces what event will be on stage first and what event should be waiting on deck.
The places are announced from eighth to first place. Names are called and competitors step forward to receive a certificate, and sometimes a metal. Event after event is called and students stand on stage holding stuffed animals or other small things serving as team mascots, an easy way to know who is on the same team. To save time after each name is called the whole gym claps only once at the same time, which is called a power clap.
After every event has been called it is time for overall sweeps, the awards that go to schools for getting the most points overall. Each class has first, second, and third places for both speech, which includes debate events, and for drama. After all of that excitement, it’s time for the bus. Coach and bus driver JD Wager drives them a short distance to some kind of store for dinner, the first time that day many of The Voices have had time and calm enough nerves to eat.
After reloading the bus it’s time to settle in for the ride home. Coach Keaton Ramm hands out comment sheets so competitors know what they can improve on for the next meet. Finally, the team arrives back at Park High School in the very early or late hours of the day after a long and difficult day. In junior Lilly Minnick’s words, “The most fun thing I do, and I’m so glad I signed up for it” and that sentiment is shared by many of her teammates.

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Madison Wetzel
My name is Madison Wetzel and I am a senior at Park High. I enjoy photography and performing arts.

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