MHS speech students make noise at nationals

MARSHALL – This past weekend, nine qualifiers from the Marshall High School Speech Team competed in the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. One of the qualifiers advanced to the quarterfinal round, and two qualifiers advanced to the semifinal round.

Danny West placed seventh out of 126 qualifiers in the Humorous Category; Bell placed 11th out of 83 qualifiers in the Original Oratory category; and Jessica Oaxaca and Danny West placed 16th out of 79 qualifiers in the Duet Acting category.

Other qualifiers who participated from the Marshall High School team include Ariel Smith, Lestat Clemmer, Michael Gutman, Malak Shahin, Tom Wyatt-Yerka and Cassie Pieschke.

Blythe Bell, a junior, wrote and performed a speech about stigmas against vocational schools.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Bell. “And it was refreshing to hear new speeches from different states, too.”

“It was nice to have (the tournament) so close as it was more affordable for our team,” said speech coach Rick Purrington. “The last two years it was held in San Francisco and San Antonio.”

Purrington said West “just missed getting into the final round with the top six speakers.”

“It was fun to see him do so well as a senior,” Purrington said. “He was the captain of the team this year.”

“It was a lot of fun,” said West, a senior who placed seventh out of 126 qualifiers in Humorous. “It was weird having it be so late after the regular season, but once I got there and started performing I got into the flow of things again.”

“It was a good farewell,” West said. “Especially for not making it to state this year. Placing seventh in a national tournament was great.”

West also participated in Duet Acting with senior Oaxaca, performing a more serious piece than what he was used to in Humorous. Duet acting differs from Dramatic Duo speech competitions that are usually seen in Minnesota. Duet acting allows speakers to interact and make eye contact with each other. Performers are also allowed to use two chairs in duet acting.

“It was a really big tournament,” Oaxaca said. “People from all over the country… from New York to Missouri to Texas.”

Oaxaca also went to the state speech tournament earlier this year and placed eighth in drama, but the speech season isn’t quite over yet for Oaxaca.

“We have one qualifier for the National Speech and Debate Association in June in Kansas City,” Purrington said. Oaxaca will get to compete in Drama for another chance at a national title.

According to its website, the NIETOC aims to bring the nation’s best and brightest students and teachers in Oral Interpretation and Oratory together to participate in a national tournament. The event also consists of workshops for teachers, networking opportunities and strategies for increasing student achievement.

“This tournament has a big education component,” Purrington said. “They offer workshops every year and give students a chance to learn from expert coaches.”

Purrington said there tends to be a lot of waiting at large tournaments while results are tallied, so the workshops are a great opportunity to give students and coaches a chance to learn and develop during the down time.