Gabrielino High School

Annabelle Cook qualifies for fourth Speech and Debate State Championship tournament in a row

In the seventh grade, Annabelle Cook followed her sister Caitlyn Cook’s footsteps when she joined the Speech and Debate team at Jefferson Middle School. Now a senior and the co-event leader of Original Prose and Poetry (OPP) of the Screamin’ Eagles Speech and Debate Team at Gabrielino High School, Cook has forged her own legacy as she is set to return to the State Championship tournament on April 19 for the fourth year in a row.

Often compared to her sister who retained a captaincy position, Cook made it her goal to deviate from what others expected of her, opting to exceed their expectations in her own way. She strives to leave a unique impression on those who witness her perform.

“I want to be enjoyable for others to watch but also get my message across,” expressed Cook. “For my speech this year, I hope that people hear it and begin to question their own perspectives.”

Cook’s current speech focuses on the topic of gender roles in society. As president of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Gabrielino, Cook wanted to create a speech that captured her experience with issues regarding the public’s ideals. Acting as multiple characters, she tells the tale of a father who discovers a dress in his son’s backpack.

“Annabelle’s ability to speak her mind is inspiring,” praised co-event leader Leslie Tran, senior. “She’s not afraid of anything, and a lot of [the team members] in OPP look up to her.”

Cook’s role as co-event leader puts her in a position to be a leader to those in her event. She not only focuses on improving herself but also helping her teammates develop their speeches as well. Cook takes pride in the fact that she is allowed to have a direct impact on the future of OPP at Gabrielino.

Annabelle Cook relaxes in between rounds with her fellow Speech teammates at the Spring Varsity Tournament. Photo courtesy of Katherine Xie.

“[Annabelle] works really hard,” complimented Coach Derek Yuill. “What’s admirable is that she’s been performing for a long time, and she’s been doing well for the same amount of time.”

Cook is the only one of her class to qualify for State every year of her speech career. Her greatest accomplishment this year was automatically qualifying for the tournament.

In order to do so, she had to place first or second at both the Fall Varsity and Spring Varsity tournaments held earlier in the year. Her previous years were disappointing because she just shy of meeting the requirements by one rank, so being able to automatically qualify this year was particularly satisfying.

Cook hopes to do well at the State Championship tournament but is not focused on winning. Instead, she simply wants her spectators to remember her and her speech.

Her coaches and her teammates wish her good luck when she shuttles to the city of Mountain House with the 25 other students who also qualified for the State Championships.

OPP students have fun at the State Qualifying tournament. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Campos.