State speech tournament ‘takes fine arts to a new level’

Generally, there’s not a lot of buzz at high school tournament time when the tournament is about speech, which is why today’s post from the Minnesota State High School League’s Tom Leighton is such a great read for a Monday morning.

Leighton, the communications coordinator for the MSHSL, visited the league’s speech state tournament in Lakeville on Friday. He writes that the kids take fine arts to a new level.

In a windowed-classroom, I witnessed something I’d never seen in 32 years of covering high school activities. In each of the room’s four corners, participants were practicing their craft, speaking to audiences and judges that were disguised as chalkboards, computer monitors and wallpapered-partitions.

This was a Speech participant’s equivalent to pregame layups for a basketball player or scales for pianist prior to a recital.

It was an amazing sight, one that made me have an “a-ha” moment. Earlier, I had seen t-shirts that proudly proclaimed “We Talk to Lockers” or “We Talk to Walls.” I wasn’t bright enough to figure it out until I witnessed it.

From being thoroughly entertained during Humorous Interpretation to being enlightened at Informative Speaking, I couldn’t stop beaming at what I was witnessing.

I have always been a proponent of the Fine Arts, but this was taking it to another level.

As a high school student, I was a three-sport participant, sang in the choir and had parts in the school musicals. Two of my three children were their school’s recipients of the MSHSL’s Triple “A” Award. One of those “A’s” is for excellence in the arts.

But in all of those travels, attending a Speech tournament had eluded me.

He describes a scene after the initial round of competitions that requires us to consider that maybe we need a new word for sportsmanship.

He said it didn’t matter who won, but for the record, Cannon Falls led all Class A schools with two gold medals (all results). Eagan, East Ridge of Woodbury, and Lakeville North led all Class AA schools in gold medals, winning two apiece, according to the MSHSL (all results).

What’s it like to be a first-time competitor? MSHSL’s John Millea followed Steven Fyten from Pierz.

The young man had to speak with Russian, British, and Scottish accents during his speech.

He was wonderful.

“He likes to play different characters, so that makes the characters in his speech come out,” said Sheri Menden (pictured with Steven), who coaches the Pierz speech team with Andrew Boman. “He likes to meet people, he likes to talk a lot and he is incredibly, incredibly intelligent.”

After the first three rounds, scores are totaled and the top eight speakers in each category advance to the championship round. Steven didn’t advance to the finals, but he was pleased with how the day went, as well as the entire season.

He didn’t know anything about speech when the school year began. He was the narrator for a school musical (“Into the Woods”) in the fall, and Boman – who was new to Pierz and brought back the speech team – told him he had a good speaking voice and should consider trying speech.

(h/t: Mike Worcester)

  • jon

    These would be some after the competition press interviews worth watching!
    🙂

  • Kassie

    I lettered in Speech in high school, but I was terrible. Didn’t come close to making it to State. Now I give presentations and speak regularly in front of groups of 80+ people without a problem. Probably one of the only things I did in high school that really helped me in my career. All that math I took sure hasn’t.

  • Carol S.

    Hey, thanks for the story. I coach high school speech, and it’s nice to see this valuable activity getting some attention.

  • Mike Worcester

    Thank you Bob for sharing this. It’s a fantastic activity.

  • Jack

    Years ago I was one of those talking to the wall – extemporaneous speaking and debate. Those classes prepared me more for my career than any other in high school. (Still glad I took those typing classes though.)

    If we were lucky, we got a small blurb in the local paper when we did well at tournaments.