MARSHALL - A massive number of sharp-dressed, well-spoken students from across the Midwest will have their voices heard loud and clear as they compete at the 11th annual Schwan's Speech Spectacular today and Saturday.
A total of 104 classrooms were needed this year to accommodate the growing number of participants. Marshall High School head speech coach Rick Purrington said the event is expected to bring in nearly 1,000 people, with speakers from eight states and 33 different school districts.
"Word has been getting out to teams in the Midwest who want good competition and a lot of rounds and opportunities to speak in front of judges," Purrington said. "And, for the first time ever, the Schwan's Spectacular is considered to be a bid tournament."
Sophomore Amy Welu practices her speech in Informative Speaking recently.
The two-day event is one of only 47 qualifying tournaments held in the nation throughout the year where students can qualify for the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions. While the Spectacular offers 13 individual categories of competition, the qualifying process only pertains to five of them - dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation, original oratory, duo interpretation and extemporaneous speaking.
"The national tournament will be held in San Antonio, Texas this year," Purrington said. "Anyone who advances to the quarterfinals in the five national events gets an automatic bid to the tournament of champions. We were given that distinction because of the high caliber of competition that is here and the large number of rounds that are offered."
Last year, 13 students from MHS advanced to the quarterfinals at the Speech Spectacular, including Rachel Hulsizer who made it to the final round in great speeches. Although Hulsizer graduated in May, Purrington said that he's excited to have a number of kids back that advanced to the quarterfinal round.
There are 66 students from MHS competing in this year's tournament, which is also the team's first competition. A week ago, the students performed their pieces in a mock tournament in preparation for the upcoming event.
"The mock tournament was a way to have the students speak in front of someone besides the coach," Purrington said. "They were able to get some critiques and get into their suits. Jumping into the Schwan's Speech Spectacular is a little bit nerve wracking, but now we feel like they're a little bit more ready and know what to expect, especially with the new members."
Seven seniors will lead the way for MHS, while a majority of the team are freshmen and sophomores.
"It's always nice to have our senior leaders who have been with us for four years," Purrington said. "They've been dynamite leaders. We have a large number of second-year team members, too. Many of them had just phenomenal seasons as new members, so we look forward to them maturing as speakers."
In addition to Minnesota, students will be competing from Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas. More than 200 judges will also be present, including 45-50 of them from the Marshall area.
There will be five rounds of competition in each of the 13 categories, beginning at 1:15 p.m. today, followed by rounds at 2:50 p.m., 4:20 p.m. and 6 p.m. The fifth round will begin at 8:15 a.m. Saturday.
"Each student will be heard by five different judges in the preliminary rounds," Purrington said. "Those judges will rank the students and the top 24-28 students, depending on how large the category is, will advance to the quarterfinals."
Most of the competition will be held at the Marshall High School, but four of the categories - poetry, great speeches, discussion and creative expression - will be at Southwest Minnesota State University. All finals, though, will be conducted at MHS.
The quarterfinal round begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. After being judged by a panel of three, the field of competitors will be narrowed to 12 for the semifinals, beginning at 11:45 a.m. Then, six speakers will qualify for the final round, to start competition at 1:45 p.m, followed by an awards ceremony in the MHS theater at 4 p.m.
The public is invited to come, and there is no cost for admission.
"All spectators are invited," Purrington said. "All anyone would need to do is walk in the doors of the high school and go to the information table and they can get to where they need to be, whether they're interested in a certain category or a speaker. We have people that can guide them to where they want to go. It's free entertainment."
Located at Marshall High School and SMSU
1:15 p.m. Round 1
2:50 p.m. Round 2
4:20 p.m. Round 3
6 p.m. Round 4
Located at the Marshall High School
8:15 a.m. Round 5
10 a.m. Quarterfinals held at MHS
11:45 a.m. Semifinals held at MHS
1:45 p.m. Finals held at MHS
4 p.m. Awards Ceremony in the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts