MARSHALL - Last year, Marshall High School junior Jessica Oaxaca made it to the state speech tournament in extemporaneous reading, but she didn't make it into finals.
On Friday, she came away a state champion.
Oaxaca was named the state champion in the extemporaneous reading category at the 2013 State Class AA Speech Tournament in Blaine on Friday, while fellow MHS speech team members Jeff Paskach got fifth in creative expression and Abby Surprenant won sixth in original oratory.
"It was really, really nerve-racking," Oaxaca said about Friday's competition. "The tension was so high, you can tell that everybody who was there deserved to be there. They were ready to compete."
Paskach earned his third medal at state, which places him in elite company, MHS head speech coach Rick Purrington said. A total of 214 students since 1969 have gotten three medals in their career, he said.
"That's a prestigious accomplishment for him," Purrington said.
It was a second medal for Surprenant, who was a runner-up at state in original oratory last year.
Speech team members compete in three rounds throughout the day at state before entering the final round. Oaxaca said she was nervous at first, but it got better with each round, that she gained confidence.
"We're thrilled for Jessica," said Purrington. "She was very determined to advance into finals."
Oaxaca was the section champion in extemporaneous reading, Purrington said.
"She won it pretty handily, it was clear to all of us that she had a good shot of winning here today (Friday)."
Oaxaca, who is coached by Heather Purrington, owed her success to the extra practices she signed up for, preparing for state competition in a classroom or at home.
"I was just thinking about all the hard work we did, all the extra practices, all the little things," Oaxaca said.
When she entered the final round, Oaxaca said she was extremely lucky to be there, that there was so much talent in the room.
"The other students she beat in the final round were from large metro schools, so that's exciting," Purrington said. "She really stepped up to beat some really high-quality kids."
Seth McGonigle and Aletta Arndt got ninth place in duo, meaning they were the next in to finals, Purrington said. Other state competitors were Malak Shahin, Annalise Wasberg, Bo Erickson and Melissa Stassen.
Oaxaca was humbled by her win at state, but she said it was a step up from last season.
"It was just really a great experience, especially coming in from last year," Oaxaca said.