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Sophomore Brennan Mock cracks a smile, one toe tapping as he waits on stage. In a few minutes, Mock will pluck a random topic from a hat, and emerge 30 minutes later with a fully memorized seven-minute speech. His topic today: Why BART should extend to Tracy.

Roars of excitement erupt from the hearty dose of Tracy residents in the crowd. Mock, despite a lukewarm interest in the subject, heads backstage to craft his speech. He cranks out research with practiced efficiency, sculpting his ideas as he designs his speech.

The crowd, breath held in anticipation, warms into a round of applause as Mock steps under the bright stage lights. For seven minutes straight, Mock stuns the crowd with a watertight speech, every point delivered with incisive precision. Given the level of research, statistical analysis and pure joy, this speech should have taken at least a week to create, not a handful of minutes. As his speech comes to a close, Mock offers a humble thanks to the crowd, flashing one last charismatic smile before leaving the stage.

Mock is the Talk Hawks team Captain. He has an impressive list of awards, including bronze in impromptu speeches at the National Speech and Debate Competition. Though now, Mock radiates a gregarious confidence, he was not always like this.

The 2018 Granada High School graduate grew up as a shy, quiet kid – until he found his real passion: speech and debate. Once he entered this new world, his life turned complete 180.

Mock isn’t your average Gen-Z college student. According to his teammates he acts very mature for his age. Almost too mature.

“He’s very dated. He is a boomer,” said speech and debate teammate Laura Lykins.

“He even drives like a boomer. When he’s on the highway, he literally goes 55.”

One would never guess that a person who listens to low-fi hip-hop, drives 55 on the freeway and who’s favorite movie is “All the President’s Men” would be a Nationally recognized public speaker. But Mock’s resume speaks for itself. In addition to his bronze at Nationals, he’s led the team to multiple top finishes in the Bay Area.

Mock credits many people for his success, but gives extra thanks to his coaches, teachers and teammates.

“I credit my teachers for inspiring my love for public speaking. From my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Doberman to my high school English teacher Mrs. Jost, they really inspired me to become better at my craft.”

In return, his teachers and teammates praised Mock’s ability to lead and his strong work ethic.

Lisa Jost, Mock’s high school English teacher always saw that Mock was going to do great things.

“Brennan was never afraid to ask questions. That’s what made his writing and speech special.”

Mock’s ability to want to learn more and want to be curious is just one reason why he enjoys public speaking and debate. He always wants to learn more about issues concerning regular people and is not afraid to speak his mind on these issues whether they are popular or not.

It was in high school when Mock’s world flipped. Mock had strong opinions on a variety of subjects, garnering encouragement from teachers and friends to voice his opinions. He ended up joining the mock trial team, which allowed him to break out of his shell and hone his ability to speak before crowds.

As his high school years progressed, he was able to gain perspective on different issues that affected young people across the country. In addition to shouldering the mock trial team, Mock also wrote for the school newspaper. This helped him explore opinions and thoughts on diverse issues at the local and national level.

During his senior year of high school, Mock gave a lengthy speech about gun control in the wake of the Parkland High School shooting. The issue was divisive and many students did not agree with Mock’s stance, but Mock spoke his mind for minutes in front of the whole student body and didn’t hold back on his stance.

This was one of the first moments where Mock realized that he had the capability to speak in front of a large crowd and share an opinion that not everyone agreed upon. He carried this confidence into college, earning a reputation as someone his teammates can look up to and his coaches can count on.

Several of Mock’s teammates appreciated the fact that his leadership style doesn’t feel intimidating or controlling. Instead, he leads by example, inspiring the rest of the team want to work harder and motivating them to do their best on the brightest of stages.

This sentiment goes both ways. Mock has always appreciated his teammates and how they constantly help him get better day in and day out.

“I know it’s cliché to say, but I like to think of us as almost like a family. Like sports teams, we go through the same joint experiences together, and through those joint experiences we get closer as a family.”

All of the students on the Talk Hawks put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to succeed. But Mock believes the team culture is what helps them achieve success.

And in the few moments where their performance may falter, the team is always there to pick each other up. Mock thrives in this environment because he is able to get reassurance from his team that no matter what happens, they will always be a family at the end of the day.

Up in room 4211 there are loud noises. One can assume that people are having heated arguments. There’s a lock on the door, and only those with the passcode can get in if the door is locked.

Upon walking in the noises get louder and the conversations get more intense until you walk in and the whole room suddenly bursts into laughter. On the outside it sounds hostile, but when you walk in you hear a warm-hearted roast battle along with serious work being discussed.

The Talk Hawks are truly a family. When one wins, they all triumph. When one fails they pick each other back up and become an even tighter family unit.

“If you have a story to tell, this is the best place to tell it,” Mock said with a wide smile. “There will be people in our community who will always want to hear what you have to say, and it is our privilege to hear what you have to say.”

Mock’s future looks bright He has already committed to transfer to California State University, Monterey Bay. The possibilities are expanding and he is already traveling at light speed. Well, maybe just 55.


Nathan Canilao is the sports editor of The Express. Follow him @nathancanilao.

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