The Section 2AA speech field expanded and got stronger this year, but that didn't seem to phase the Marshall High School speech team, which qualified a school record 13 speakers en route to winning the Section 2AA Tournament on Saturday at Mankato West High School.
Marshall beat out Chanhassen - a perennially strong team that was added to the 2AA field this year - and Chaska with six individual champions out of 13 categories, the most from any team.
"To be honest, I wasn't expecting us to win the section this year because the section is bigger and tougher than ever with Chanhassen in there," said MHS speech coach Rick Purrington. "For us to win the section, it's impressive for our kids."
Front row: Nick Dorman, Olivia Bennett, Emily Jensen, Margaret Roesler, Courntey Otto, Rick Purrington (head coach). Back row: Jeff Paskach, Vanessa Montalvo, Eric Deutz, Allison VanDenBroeke, Bo Erickson, Marcela Sanchez-Aizcorbe, Abby Surprenant, Kenny Deutz.
Marshall's previous record, set in 2009, was 12 state qualifiers. Marshall finished second to Chaska in sections a year ago.
"Chanhassen and Chaska are our two biggest competitors and beating them just shows how strong our team is," said junior Courtney Otto, who will make her second trip to state. "We've been to a lot of different tournaments against schools from the Cities - some of the best schools in the nation. And competing against them and travelling to their tournaments makes us so much better and more confident."
Teams like Chanhassen and Chaska make the section field more challenging, Purrington said, because not only do they fill out most categories with four or five entrants, those entrants are top-notch performers.
Top individual finishers at sections:
Oratory: Marcela Sanchez-Aizcorbe Section Champion State Qualifer, Emily Jensen 2nd Place State Qualifer, Abby Surprenant 3rd Place State Qualifer
Great Speeches: Kenny Deutz Section Champion State Qualifier
Prose: Courtney Otto Section Champion State Qualifier
Creative: Eric Deutz Section Champion State Qualifer
Storytelling: Margaret Roesler Section Champion State Qualifier
Duo: Olivia Bennett/Nick Dorman Section Champions State Qualifers, Emma Larson/Spencer Buss
Drama: Allison VanDenBroeke 2nd Place State Qualifier
Discussion: Bo Erickson 3rd Place State Qualifier, Katie Vogl 6th Place
Humor: Jeff Paskach 3rd Place State Qualifer, Zach Aufenthie 7th Place, Luke Schroeder 8th Place
Poetry: Vanessa Montalvo 3rd Place State Qualifer
Informative: Nick Evans 4th Place, Jessica Rupp
"They're really strong teams with really talented kids," Purrington said. "They aren't just filling up numbers, they're brining in kids that have a legitimate chance to qualify for state. It was more of a challenge, but that makes it more gratifying."
Marshall lost a dozen seniors to graduation, but this year's freshmen group has stepped up, taking the team from underdog to elite status.
"We lost 12 seniors from last year's team, so we were kind of thinking we'd be the underdog this year, but we came out on top," said freshman Marcela Sanchez-Aizcorbe. "We have a really good freshman group, which makes it exciting for next year, too."
The State Speech Tournament is Friday, April 23, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.