Speech Spectacular attracts 33 schools

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall High School Speech Team member Allie Lamote performed as a mother with a love of crafting in her serious interpretation piece at MHS earlier this month. MHS speech students are gearing up for the Marshall Speech Spectacular on Friday and Saturday.

MARSHALL — The annual Marshall Speech Spectacular has been a favorite of speech team members from around the region because it brings a wide range of competition to one place.

Students from 33 schools in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota are taking part in the 18th annual Marshall Speech Spectacular Friday and Saturday. The competition will take place at Marshall High School and Southwest Minnesota State University, with the first round starting at 1:35 p.m. Friday.

The tournament, which was started by speech coach Carol Purrington and Schwan’s then CEO Lenny Pippen, who loved supporting speech, is in its 18th year. MHS speech coach Rick Purrington said the first year had 300 participants from 10 schools.

“This year, it’s 33 schools and 925 participants and over 150 judges,” Rick Purrington said. “It’s grown because word has spread. Mom (Carol Purrington) still coordinates all of the MHS rooms and tournament signage and puts in weeks of work doing that.”

The tournament takes weeks of planning with contributions from many, many people, Purrington said.

Purrington said teams come for the Spectacular because they really like three things that other tournaments don’t have: up to seven rounds of competition, competitive diversity, including teams from all over the Midwest, and competitive strength, including at least seven teams that would be considered among the top 20 speech schools in the nation.

“It’s two days, which allows for a truly special type of tournament that teams can’t get anywhere else,” Purrington said.

The Speech Spectacular is one of MHS speech captain Allie Lamote’s favorite competitions for the whole season. While it is busy, it is also a ton of fun, she said.

“I am in POI (program oral interpretation), drama, prose and poetry this season, and while being quadruple entered seems crazy, it has been pushing me to achieve my goals as a senior,” she said. “This season will be challenging because every season is. But who doesn’t like a little challenge every now and then?”

Last year was MHS speech captain Alexa Amundson’s first year competing at the Speech Spectacular. She remembered going to look at which time she had to perform and there being so many people.

“I was actually super intimidated with how everything felt around me because there were so many competitors, and it felt like a completely different vicinity than it did during school,” Amundson said. She said she actually loved the event last year and would consider it one of her favorites because of how many competitors there were and how much was happening.

This year, Amundson said she’s competing in prose interpretation and dramatic interpretation. Her prose piece is about a woman named Jennifer who learns she has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and her drama piece is about a mother named Madeline who learns that her son was on the plane, Pan-Am 103, which was hijacked and destroyed by a terrorist bomb.

Amundson said she gets a lot out of the Speech Spectacular.

“We get a lot of feedback from the judges in our rounds, and it’s always great incorporating their critiques into our pieces and improving,” she said.

MHS speech captain Mariana Oaxaca said the tournament is a great learning experience for the competitors.

“There are schools that come from all over, so we get to see a variety of talent and learn from them as well,” Oaxaca said. “Also, since it is a tough competition, we end up pushing ourselves harder than at most of our other tournaments. The long hours and sore feet can be very discouraging, but I think once we get through it, we feel invincible afterwards.”

This year, Oaxaca is competing in three different categories — drama, oratory and for the first time, poetry.

“I think the competition will challenge me, and my teammates as well, to bring out our best,” she said. “The stakes are high, which makes it all that more exciting.”

Lamote said she likes the Spectacular taking place at home for several reasons, one being that she doesn’t have to wake up as early. Amundson said she likes knowing where the classrooms are and not having to waste any time getting lost around the school.

“I think the worst part last weekend (in Chanhassen High School) was knowing that I had to be in the West wing, but I somehow always managed to end up in the South wing,” Amundson said.

“One of the things I enjoy most about having the tournament here in our hometown is being able to go straight home after a long and tiring day,” Oaxaca said. “I also think the familiarity of the school makes us more comfortable and helps us focus on our pieces more instead of frantically trying to find our rooms.”

Some of the feedback he gets from participants are they love that the tournament is logistically tight, with a schedule that runs on time and hospitality that makes everyone feel welcome, Purrington said.

Purrington said the public is welcome to watch final rounds on Saturday. Varsity finals start at 2:20 p.m., and people can arrive around 2 p.m. There will be a welcome table at the MHS main entrance and the volunteers can help guide spectators with where to go.