Hedlin excels at annual Harvard speech tournament

MHS senior places third in humorous

Submitted photo Ta’mia Hedlin poses with the third-place trophy she won in the humorous category at the 45th Harvard National Speech and Debate Tournament

MARSHALL — Marshall High School senior Ta’mia Hedlin says her favorite part about competing in speech is making her audience laugh.

“It sounds cheesy, but the thing I love the most is being able to make people happy,” she said. “If I can do that in my rounds, I feel like I’ve already won.”

She brought that to the 45th Harvard National Speech and Debate Tournament in Cambridge, Massachusetts, taking third place in the humorous category.

Hedlin’s third-place finish is the best finish at the Harvard tournament for any individual speaker in Marshall speech team history, MHS speech coach Rick Purrington said. Her finish also qualified her for the NIETOC National Speech Tournament in May in Omaha, Nebraska.

Purrington said there were 5,000 competitors in the entire tournament, with 197 competitors in the humorous category from 40 states. In the finals (top 6), Hedlin spoke in front of 300 spectators, he said.

Hedlin has competed in the humorous category since her freshman year. She is now a senior captain.

“This year my piece is about three girls selling Girl Scout cookies and going on to compete in a sales competition to win a unicorn,” she said.

Going into the competition at Harvard, Hedlin said she was actually really anxious but also excited because she knew that no matter how well she did, she would learn from the speakers in every round.

“I really was not expecting to qualify in the final rounds at all,” she said. “Even though I was happy with each of my prelim performances I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to keep speaking.”

Hedlin said there were four rounds of finals: octafinals, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. She was not expecting to break into all the rounds at all.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “I also felt really nervous, but at the end of the day, I just wanted to have fun and not get too caught up in the competition. Speech is something that I really love so I didn’t want to remember this tournament as a stressful time, I just wanted to make myself proud and not put too much weight on winning.”

The competition in humorous is and was really competitive, Hedlin said.

“It was exciting meeting and competing against people from all over the world,” she said.

The competition went late on Sunday because octafinal, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds were Sunday night, Hedlin said. Monday was the final top 6.

“It was really hard to keep going and find the energy to stay awake, but my nerves, adrenaline and all the support from my family and friends back home really motivated me,” she said.

Hedlin knows how to make people laugh, Purrington said.

“She has an ability to create funny characters and say funny lines with a dry style that really makes people laugh out loud,” Purrington said. “She’s a talented kid. She’s also an incredibly humble and grateful winner. If you’d ask Ta’mia if she would ever expect this kind of success, she’d say no, but those who know her are amazed by her talent.”