Speaking to win

Qualifying for state speech competition ‘special’ for Marshall students

Photo by Jenny Kirk Marshall High School state speech qualifiers re-enact poses used during competitions. Pictured are (L-R): Sameh Hedlin, Noah Louwagie, Jacob Greathouse, Mariana Oaxaca and Kelsey Appel. The students compete in Class AA at state today. Class A qualifiers compete Saturday.

MARSHALL — Five Marshall High School students will be competing in Class AA at the 2017 Minnesota State Speech competition today at Apple Valley High School. On Saturday, 18 area students are scheduled to take part in the Class A State Speech meet.

MHS speech coach Rick Purrington calls qualifying out of Section 2AA no easy feat.

“These five speakers have certainly earned their trip to state by emerging from one of the toughest sections in the state, containing big speech powers like Chanhassen and Eden Prairie,” Purrington said. “It is special for all five of them, too, as none of them have ever qualified for state before. This is one of the first years I can remember where we didn’t qualify a team member who had been there before.”

Sameh Hedlin in informative

Purrington said Hedlin is a four-year member who has progressively gotten better and better during her career in speech.

“Sameh is a smart, poised speaker who has a really well-researched speech about the power of smell in our world,” he said.

Hedlin said she was hesitant to even participate in speech but is glad she’s finally learned how to speak in front of people. She advanced to state in informative speaking.

“I start out talking about how the olfactory system works,” Hedlin said. “That part is a little boring. My second point is my favorite one. I talk about how people interpret smells differently in different cultures. The nastiest example is a cattle grazing tribe in Ethiopia.”

Hedlin said the tribe’s entire life is centered around cows.

“They love cows, so the men wash their hands in urine and smear manure on their chests,” she said. “Then the women rub butter into their necks and shoulders to make them smell more attractive.”

Hedlin said sleep deprivation caused her to delay her enthusiasm for her state-qualifying effort.

“It hit me the next day because I’d only gotten three hours of sleep the night before,” Hedlin said. “I was really excited the next morning, after getting seven hours of sleep.”

Mariana Oaxaca in drama

As the only junior to qualify for the state speech competition, Purrington said Oaxaca really emerged as a competitive leader on the team about halfway through the season.

“She has the ability to control a room with her emotional believability,” he said. “Her facial expressions can communicate so much, especially during quiet moments in her speech. Her speech covers an incredibly important issue of young girls who turn to cutting as a way to cope with hurt.”

Since the category is drama, Oaxaca reiterated that bringing out emotion was the biggest challenge.

“The judges judge on how well you play the part, how convincing you are,” she said. “The days (of competition) are really long, so trying to draw out the emotion when you’re super tired, that’s the biggest challenge for me.”

Oaxaca’s speech is called “Girl” by Megan Mostyn-Brown.

“My character’s name is Hannah,” Oaxaca said. “Her sister committed suicide, and it really hits her hard. The whole time, she’s trying to earn acceptance from her mother. Her mother has been very distant. She has this inner battle on whether or not she should take her own life, too. At the end, she doesn’t. It’s a powerful speech.”

Oaxaca calls making it to state “kind of surreal.”

“When I compare how I was in the beginning to how I am now, you just see so much growth,” she said. “I’m glad it’s finally paying off. And honestly, my last round — it was packed. The people were amazing and I think that they all deserve to go, so I’m kind of on this high right now. I can’t believe it.”

Kelsey Appel in Great Speeches

Purrington calls Appel a natural, joining the team as a junior and learning very quickly.

“In her event, students need to be able to both deliver effectively, but also have the intellect to understand a complex rhetorical analysis,” Purrington said. “Kelsey’s got the smarts and also the natural sensitivity to deliver words of others. Great speeches turned out to be a nice fit for Kelsey because of this.”

Last year, MHS speech team member Ashley Schotzko won the state championship in great speeches.

“Since this is my first year in great speeches and my second year in speech overall, I was definitely scared,” Appel said. “I’m not really super familiar with what the judges want exactly. There’s some that like the history part of it, some that like the analysis part of it and some that like how you speak. So I could not rank myself at all.”

Appel explained that she took part of Nora Ephron’s 1996 Wellesley College commencement speech, analyzed it and selected a method — one that has three sub-topics.

“Then I incorporated it into her words and state things that attribute to the method, to make it more valid and more of a great speech,” Appel said. “It’s a feminist speech. My method — the three topics are — she connects back to the school since it’s a commencement speech, and then she adds humor, which is helpful to keep the audience engaged, and then the last one is that it’s surprising and unexpected. That’s kind of why I really love this speech. I can surprise people at the same time and not be boring.”

Appel said great speeches has been known to be one of the most boring of all speech events.

“Going through some of the rounds, you could definitely fall asleep if you want to,” she said. “It’s a great napping category for some people. So the humor helps for mine. I’ve been told afterward that my speech has helped them get through the rounds because it’s entertaining.”

Noah Louwagie and

Jacob Greathouse in duo

Purrington said Louwagie and Greathouse are great friends who enjoy working on their performance.

“These two are such a perfect fit together,” Purrington said. “They both love their script so much and they let it show. One of the most common comments they get from judges is that it is clear the two of them are having so much fun.”

When learning he and Greathouse qualified for state, Louwagie said he couldn’t stop smiling.

“We’ve been working our butt off this year, and making it was really eye-opening because it really shows all the hard work that we used and everything,” Louwagie said.

Louwagie said their speech is based on “The Producers” by Mel Brooks.

“It’s our favorite musical that we ever watched together,” he said. “We have a ton of memories with it. It’s crazy and fun. We passed the line, but we’re universally offensive, so it’s cool.”

Greathouse said it’s been a challenge to keep their composure during their humorous performance.

“You have to deaden your soul so you don’t laugh,” he said.

Greathouse credits the combination of their personalities as a factor in their success.

“We work really well together,” Greathouse said. “We have good chemistry.”

Greathouse was grateful to finally be advancing to the state speech contest.

“I’ve made it to finals every year that I’ve been in speech, and I’ve been one out from state twice,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Finally!’ It took long enough.”

Purrington said the duo’s script does a great job of showcasing both their acting and musical talents, as they needed to do some singing from the musical.

“As seniors who have both been successful team members for four years, they really deserve this honor,” Purrington said.

Class A qualifiers

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton is sending six speech students to the 2017 State Speech competition. Noah Tiegs is looking for his third medal, competing in serious interpretation — poetry. Sarita Hook qualified for state in extemporaneous reading, while Marian Schnell is advancing in extemporaneous speaking.

MaiDee Vang and PaNhia Vang qualified in serious interpretation. MaiDee’s speech is from “The Hour of Our Death” by Greg Moeller, while PhNhia’s is from “Still” by Darlene Auxajas.

Anna Johnston earned a trip to state with her serious poetry speech from “The Story — a Poetry Program” by various authors.

Minneota is also sending six students. Nick Bot and Cole Bot will compete in duo with “Body Odor: The Proactive People Repellent” by Bradley Walton. Natalie Bot and Tara Thooft will also take part in the state duo competition, using their speech from “Driver’s Test” by Don Zolidis.

Brenden Kimpe qualified in extemporaneous speaking, while Sean Dilley advanced in informative speaking.

Five speech competitors qualified from Murray County Central, including Alyssa Boynton in extemporaneous reading, Megan Busman in great speeches and Cale Engelkes in storytelling.

Jake Bleyenberg will compete with his humorous interpretation speech from “Bad Substitute” by Sean Abley. Maggie Heezen also advanced with her serious interpretation from “The Exonerated” by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.

Sara Jeong was the lone speech member from Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central to qualify for state. Jeong will compete in original oratory with her speech on global warming education.