A lifelong skill

Marshall competitors see speech as a way to build confidence

Photo by Karin Elton Speech newcomer Lauren Noriega talks to speech veteran Jenna Zeug Friday afternoon at Marshall High School. The two were among the many participants at the Marshall Speech Spectacular, which continues today.

MARSHALL — For high schoolers just starting out or ones who have participated for three or four years, speech experience is a valuable asset to have for a college career, a future job or life in general say Marshall speech students.

Day one of the 17th annual Marshall Speech Spectacular was Friday afternoon at Marshall High School, Southwest Minnesota State University, Red Baron Arena and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

“There are 30 teams registered,” MHS Speech coach and event organizer Rick Purrington said. “They come from Duluth to Des Moines, (Iowa), to Omaha, (Neb.,) and everywhere in between. There will be 917 participants — the largest ever.”

Marshall has more than 60 students participating.

This year is Alex Thordson’s second year participating in speech. A senior, he wishes he would have started earlier in his high school career.

“A friend made me join and I wish I would have started as a freshman,” he said. “I look back and wonder why I didn’t.”

Thordson said participating in speech has made a major impact on his life.

“The biggest part is confidence,” he said. “Some people really thrive under pressure and I think that might be me.”

Thordson urges younger high schoolers to join.

“Speech is a lot of fun,” he said. “It sounds really scary, but just do it.”

Senior Addy Wolbaum is in her third year of participation — “I was in it as a freshman and sophomore and re-joined as a senior,” she said. “It has greatly improved my speaking skills. It has given me more confidence and enabled me to speak more clearly in front of people. It impacts your life forever.”

Wolbaum would like to be a lawyer someday and speech will “definitely help.” Her speech category is discussion where you have to work together.

“You have different opinions, but need to come up with one conclusion,” she said.

Thordson is also participating in the discussion category, which requires a lot of research on a topic. Participants need to be prepared to answer questions about it.

“You don’t know what questions they’ll ask,” he said.

Thordson and Wolbaum’s topic is “Privacy and Surveillance,” an “interesting topic,” Wolbaum said.

Someone on the beginning part of the learning curve is junior Lauren Noriega who is experiencing her first year in speech. She joined speech to perfect her speaking skills, which she will call upon in her future profession as a lawyer.

Noriega said before her participation in speech she would get “shaky in front of groups.” She is taking a CIS speech class (Colleges in Schools) and “at first I was very shaky,” but after a few tries, she now feels more “calm and confident.”

She said her improvement is the result of working with speech coaches.

“They really helped,” she said. “They gave me tips such as ‘look at their (audience members’) eyebrows instead of their eyes.’ I have amazing coaches. My speech has definitely improved. I was scared to join, but the speech team is really welcoming.”