Speech Team Senior Lilia Villaflor’s Rockstar Season

Megan Krok, Editor-in-Chief

Lilia Villaflor is a senior on the Joliet West Speech Team. This season, she received the record breaking accomplishment of earning nine tournament championships in a single event, six of those wins consecutively,
including an IHSA Regional and Sectional championship. Her greatest accomplishment, however, was becoming the
first Prose Reading IHSA State Finalist in the history of the Joliet West Speech Team.

Villaflor began her journey on the Speech team her freshman year in 2018. She already had experience with acting, and decided to audition for the team because she believed it was a great opportunity to practice performing each week and learn about acting through repetition. When Villaflor found out she had landed a spot on the team for Prose Reading, which she would continue to compete in all four years in high school, she was ecstatic.

“I couldn’t believe I had made the cut with the little experience I had,” she continued, “I don’t think I realized at that point how much of a commitment it would be, and I also didn’t know how much I’d grow to love prose reading.”

The senior recalls the moment she fell in love with prose reading. “I realized I loved prose reading when it clicked for me that I wasn’t interested in winning or in making it to the final round. What I enjoyed was prelims and just getting the opportunity to perform my piece each week.”

Since then, Villalfor has had quite the success in this event. For this competition season, Villaflor performed a piece titled God Said, “Ha!” by actress Julia Sweeney. Villaflor believes that the success of her performances with this piece this season came from a desire to focus on creating a connection between herself as a performer and members of the audience. “My goal was to make myself indistinguishable from my character, allowing for the audience to be as fully immersed in the story as possible.”

Additionally, Villaflor spent time each week forming a connection to this piece. She explains that this came “very organically” through cutting the piece on her own. Villaflor also utilized her knowledge of Sweeney and her story as well as using prior knowledge of the subject matter of this piece to guide her choices when performing.

This preparation undoubtedly helped Villaflor’s dominance this season. She began her season with an astounding six consecutive wins in the Prose Reading event.

What’s even more impressive is that Villaflor would become the first member of the Joliet West Speech Team to achieve that number of consecutive wins in a singular event. Villaflor recalls the moment she received that sixth consecutive win, “When I broke the record of most consecutive wins, I felt sentimental because it was at the school where I had made the final for the first time three years prior! I was happy to know how far I had come since then.”

But this isn’t the only record Villaflor would break in her final season on the Speech Team. A few months later, Villaflor would break the record for most tournament championships in a single event!

She recalls that this seemed “crazy” to her, but emphasizes that her performance was not impacted by the winning streak at all. “I put no pressure on myself to maintain it,” she recalls. “As long as I did a clean performance, it was
not important to me if I placed first or last. The win streak was a very happy accident, and there was no pressure that came along with keeping it.

Unsurprisingly, the success of Villaflor’s invitational season would carry her through the IHSA State Series as well. Villaflor became the SPC Conference champion for Prose Reading, and also placed first at the Regional and Sectional competition. When she won the Sectional, Villaflor recalls being in “pure disbelief.”

“In my whole four years, I had no expectation of ever qualifying, so it was just this most wonderful surprise. After a difficult few years on the team, it was indescribably rewarding and I felt, and still feel, incredibly lucky to have made it as far as I did.”

Once she reached the IHSA State competition, the experience was surreal. Villaflor explains that at that level of competition, the caliber of the performances no longer felt like she was at a tournament but rather a showcase of talented prose readers. Villaflor would end up breaking into the top six finalists out of the eighteen competitors in her event. As if a record breaking invitational sea-son wasn’t enough, Villaflor made history by becoming the first even Prose Reading finalist in the history of the Joliet West Speech Team.

After an impressive year, Villaflor believes that ultimately the key to her success this season has been hercontinued experimentation with delivery. She notes that the author of her piece is a comedian, so Villaflor found ways to play around with this throughout her performances of the season. “I took a very self guided approach to my practice each week. It always entailed a lot of repetition, extensive self reflection written into a notebook, and in- put on comedic timing from my very hilarious parents.”

When looking back on this season, Villaflor believes, “My biggest lesson I took away from this season was that when you present something to an audience and you feel very connected with your piece and your character, people will pick up on that and connect to it along with you.”

She reflects, “It’s a really beautiful thing to perform to a room and feel as though they can relate to you, your character, and the story you are telling.”

After high school, Lilia Villaflor plans to study acting at either the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, hoping to one day be an acting coach and work in a theater. “I owe a lot of my love for performing to prose reading!”