Decatur High School’s Literary Team and The Effect of COVID-19

The newfound literary team is grabbing everyone’s attention at Decatur High School (DHS). The team was created by seniors Jared Witz. Witz asked IB literature teachers Shelby Coffin and Erika Leach to coach the team. 

“I was honored that Jared considered me, and was so excited to be a part of it… we started organizing immediately,” Coffin said. 

Senior Anna Zreloff is co-captain of the team and heard about it through Coffin at tutorial. 

“I just shoved myself in as co-captain. I wanted to do this because I thought it was really interesting and an excuse to hang out with Ms. Coffin and Ms. Leach,” Zreloff said. 

Both Zreloff and Witz thought of the sport as a joke initially. However, the literary team has over 30 members and representation from all grades. 

“I thought it was just going to be me, Jared, and some other person… I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are actually a lot of people that want to be involved in this,” Zreloff said. 

Even though a select few competed at Regionals, every literary team member came to support the competitors.

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S and the increasing number of cases in Georgia, DHS has been closed as of March 17th. All extracurricular activities have been canceled as well. According to Ms. Coffin, there has been no information available regarding State Championships which are supposed to be held on March 21 at Buford High School. Ms. Coffin hopes that the championships will be rescheduled since Decatur High School is set to still be canceled for the rest of March.

“We are disappointed, but the safety and health of all involved and their families is the top priority. I am hoping the team can continue to remain strong together and use this experience as fodder for future essays and speeches,” Coffin said. 

Even though the team automatically passed through regionals as the only team participating, DHS lit members and coaches believe that they will succeed if there is State Championships.  

“This is our first season, so we hope to represent Decatur well, and to put forth our best effort in competitions,” sophomore Molly Khayat said. 

Coffin aspires to make sure everyone on the literary team has fun expressing their ideas in a unique and competitive way. 

“I want everyone to feel connected as a team, to be proud of their dedication, and to know their writing and speech skills have improved,” Coffin said. 

Zreloff also makes it a priority to make sure members stay motivated throughout the season.

“We have a lot of really great and talented people on the team,” Zreloff said. 

Anna Zreloff helps fellow team member at regionals.

On the literary team, athletes prepare for both the essay and the speech portion for competition. For the essays, the athletes are given one prompt for each argumentative, personal and rhetorical essay. Athletes are given one hour to write 600 words to be graded by the judges. 

For speeches, athletes are given an allotted time to prepare their speech on an international or domestic current event. They can also use one notecard during the speech.

“What sets the literary team apart from writing an in-class essay or delivering a speech is that competitors are not given the topics in advance, and must rely on their intellect to produce strong work with little preparation,” Khayat said. 

Even though all 21 members prepare, only five people compete, with three students doing essays and two students doing the speech portion. They will compete against different schools, trying to get the highest grade from the judges.

At Regionals, the competitors were Josh Polak for International Extemporaneous Speaking, Lydia Witter for Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking, Bridget Goodman for Rhetorical Essay, Ella Dittmer for Argumentative Essay and George Rodi for Personal Essay. 

 “They all received wonderful scores and feedback,” Coffin said. 

Next year, Coffin wishes to change regions so the DHS lit team will have a much broader scope of competition before going to state.

Even though the senior pioneers of the literary team will be gone next year, Ms. Coffin knows that the literary team will continue to be a strong and exciting sport at Decatur High School. 

“Our future vision involves shiny gold tracksuits, so there’s that. We are hoping to continue building more and growing as a team,” Coffin said. 

Coffin also wishes to connect with chorus and drama to compete in the One Act and Singing categories. 

“We have so many talented singers and actors at the school, and the literary team provides an excellent stage for those who wish to showcase their skills in a competitive setting. We have lots of room to grow as a first-year team, and the addition of drama and chorus will help bring the team to the next level,” Khayat said.

With changing regions and collaborating with chorus and drama (not to mention the gold tracksuits in the works for next year), the literary team is adding creativity and uniqueness to the DHS Athletic Department.