Talking points

MARSHALL – To get ready for the high-caliber competition at the 13th Annual Schwan’s Speech Spectacular today and Saturday, the Marshall High School speech captains implemented a new strategy, one that goes above and beyond their typical duties.

“This week, we’re trying something new,” said Abby Surprenant, senior captain along with Nick Evans and Bo Erickson. “We’re having captains’ practices. So everyone on the team was basically divided up and given to one of us three. Then, we had sign-ups, so each person this week will practice with one of us three in a 15-minute time slot, just as extra preparation for this weekend.”

The captains pointed out that most students have a certain fear about giving a speech to their peers.

“But we’re just trying to instill in them that everything is going to be fun, it’s like this big speech marathon that they’re going into,” Erickson said. “We just give them a little pep up and motivation before it starts.”

“We think that if you can give your speech for someone you know or your peers, you can give it for anyone,” Surprenant said.

Having been part of the MHS speech team for the past four years, the captains not only know what it takes to be successful, they’re also aware of how competitive their home tournament is.

“The Speech Spectacular is a competitive experience unlike any other,” Surprenant said. “I’m kind of sad that it’s my last time, but I’m just excited for the opportunity.”

Evans said he appreciates seeing the best of what the Midwest has to offer. Five states will be represented as students from 30 different teams compete this year. While students will be arriving from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas and Colorado, there won’t be any from Nebraska this year because of another speech conflict.

“I think it’s cool because you get such a wide array of different regions here,” Evans said. “I’m a little sad, too, that it’s going to be over with, but I’m very excited for how it’ll turn out.”

Erickson said that as seniors, they’ve put more pressure on themselves to do the best they’ve ever done.

“We really want to do good because it’s our home tournament, and it’s basically the most prestigious one in the Midwest,” Erickson said. “If we could just hammer it out here, it would be fun. This tournament is like the mecca of everyone who is good. Teams only bring their good people, so rounds are super stacked.”

Led by 17 seniors, Erickson said he believes that this year’s team is very talented.

“I think our team is the best we’ve seen it in four years,” Erickson said. “So we’re really motivated.”

MHS head speech coach Rick Purrington agreed, noting that with potential comes pressure.

“Last year, we placed fifth overall here, and that was with a pretty young team,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors and a lot of experienced seniors who have done this for a number of years.”

The Speech Spectacular offers 13 categories of competition at the varsity level, and for the second straight year, the tournament also offers a novice division.

“Novice is defined as anyone new to speech or new to their event this year,” Purrington said. “So it’s typically freshmen and newbies. It was really popular and went really well last year.”

As a rookie in the category, Evans won in novice extemporaneous speaking last year. The category requires that a student select one of the three questions he or she randomly draws before each round.

“You pick one, and then you have 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech on it,” Evans said. “The questions involve foreign current events.”

While some people would be terrified to compete in an impromptu-type category, Evans said he really enjoys it.

“There’s just something about having an adrenaline rush of having a set amount of time,” he said. “The time goes by really fast, but you use every second of it.”

Surprenant competes in oratory and informative categories.

“My informative speech is on cognitive bias modification, which is a not-yet-released therapy that requires no talking,” she said. “It’s being called therapist-free therapy, and it’s completely technology-based.”

In oratory, which is a persuasive speech written by the student, Surprenant discusses the concept of “sanitizing death for children.”

“We’re not good about truthfully confronting it,” Surprenant said. “The problem is that children don’t have a good understanding of how to cope with death if we aren’t truthful about it. I argue that they regress academically and have behavior issues.”

Erickson competes this year in drama and oratory.

“My oratory speech is about society’s rigid view on men, how we expect men to fit within this rigid mold,” Erickson said. “And it’s kind of become like ‘manning up,’ how we expect men to always be super manly and avoid everything girly.”

Erickson got the idea from a Time Magazine article.

“Womanhood is never questioned, but men have to prove themselves to be a man,” he said. “The Time article was about how soldiers are killing themselves faster than they’re actually dying in the war in Afghanistan.”



1:15 p.m. – Round I

2:50 p.m. – Round II

4:20 p.m. – Round III

5:55 p.m. – Round IV


8:30 a.m. – Round V

10:25 a.m. – Varsity quarterfinals

12:15 p.m. – Varsity semi-finals, Avera novice division finals

1:55 p.m. – Varsity finals

3:30 p.m. – Awards