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No Debate About It: New JALC Speech Team is Off to a Fast Start

Published on February 27, 2024

Last year, Instructor of Communications Pat Idzik approached John A. Logan College President Dr. Kirk Overstreet with an initiative to build a competitive speech team. Idzik wanted the College to start a Forensics team to compete state-wide and nationally in public speaking, oral interpretation, and reader’s theater. Overstreet knew he had the right person to start the program and gave him a simple charge. Do it!

“I know there has long been a desire to start a team at the College, and I knew Pat was the right person to get the program up and running. So, I told him there is no time like the present. Let’s get a team together and give it a shot,” Overstreet said.

Idzik hit the ground running by recruiting current and former students and getting the help of staff members who had competed as students.

“We already had a lot of talented students on campus that had high school experience,” said Idzik. “We also had two staff members in our IT department with experience willing to coach, which was a huge help to me. It allowed us to go from talking about doing this to competing in the fall.”

The first call went to Jon Gunzel, a technology support technician in the Information Technology Department who had competed for Southeastern Illinois College’s storied forensics team.

“Jon had experience as a competitor, and he still had contacts that could help us start competing immediately, so I knew he would be the perfect person to serve as the head coach and mentor to our team,” said Idzik. “We had a second staff member in IT with experience in Dustin Myers, who also agreed to help coach the team, and Anthony Zarinana, adjunct faculty in Communication. These volunteer coaches have contributed hundreds of hours to the new team’s success.”

With coaches in place, Idzik’s next move was to recruit someone to be a team captain, and he knew that Kellen Colson from Marion was the first call he made.

“I had Pat as an instructor my first semester at JALC, and he knew about my experience competing in high school and at a college I had previously attended, so he reached out to me over the summer to see If I would be interested in starting a team here at John A. Logan College,” Colson said. “Essentially, it all started small with recruiting the team at Club Day and with signs around campus. Once enough students were interested in competing, the next step was doing the leg work to get us in some competitions.”

According to Gunzel, other programs around the state were extremely helpful in getting the team ready to compete.

“Teams around the state, especially SIC, have been extremely supportive in helping us know what we need to compete, how to get scripts, how to dress, and how to sign up for tournaments,” said Gunzel. “The other coaches have encouraged us and have really been excited for our students as they have placed in events.”

Being the new kids on the block does not mean the students or coaches are not expected to do well. They have decided to go to every competition to place, which is just what they have done in their first year of competing.

At the recent IIFA State Virtual Tournament debate, Mischa O’Connell and Alberta Grinston competed against two- and four-year schools. 

Mischa O’Connell has secured first or second place in Illinois’s 2-year International Public Debate. The official results will be revealed at the tournament’s conclusion on March 3. 

In addition to O’Connell, several team members recently placed at Pioneer Trails Open Digital Tournament. Kellen Colson and Marissa Bogdansky placed second in duo. Colson also finished fifth in dramatic interpretation and sixth in poetry. Emily Nelson placed fifth in informative, and Bogdansky finished sixth in Prose. The team finished third in Sweeps (awards given to the top teams based on the entire team’s performance at a tournament). D’Kazia Taylor is also a member of the team.  

President Overstreet could not be prouder of the group’s quick success.

“We are so proud of what they have accomplished in such a short time. I think they have exceeded everyone’s expectations, and I know they will do well at the remaining tournaments and into the future.”

The team will next compete at the IE tournament in Chicago Heights, where 5 of the members will compete in individual events. For more information, visit

Members of the John A. Logan College Speech Team