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Park speech team finishes the year with strong showing

This year's Park High School speech team, after their first-place win at the Princeton meet, include Faven Ayana, Ahmed Khadra, Mary Babinski, Jacquelyn Bennett, Holly Butler, Gina Carson, Chesare Cipriano, Tyler Clatt, Taylor Diedrich, Alexander Eleria-Yin, Maddie Franz, Justin Hiemstra, Michael Harrison, Ashley Hatcher, Henry Gibney, Ashlee Hatcher, Ben Jemie, Dannie Johnson, Natalie Johnson, Lexi Kleinschmidt, Aiyana Komer, Maddy Holtan, Alison Kuehn, Vicky Lennartson, Reina Lippert, Troy Lowry, Odett...

With a new coach finishing her second year, the Park High School Speech Team is celebrating its revival by finishing the year with fourth place in Section 3AA.

The team put six members in section finals and had two winners in state competition.

Section finalists included: Kemi Olukoga, second place in poetry; Molly Moran, second place poetry; Justin Hiemstra and Troy Lowry, fourth place in duo; Gina Carson, fifth-place prose; Lexi Kleinschmidt, fifth-place drama, and Maddie Franz, fifth-place, creative expression.

In state competition, Molly Moran took eighth place in humorous and Kemi Olukoga got sixth place in poetry.

Many of the actors in the recent One-Act Play, "Antigone," that starred at state shows are also members of the school's speech team.

There's a good reason for that. A strong speech team is a great place to grow actors for One-Act, according to Nicole Vaith, the speech team coach who took over two years ago. They are also well prepared to try out for parts in other Park theater productions.

The school's drama department agreed to get many students to join the team as a gateway to other drama productions. This year, the number of team members grew to 55 from about 20 two years ago.

The speech team is "on fire," Vaith said, with a third-place finish at Prior Lake, fourth-place at Chaska, third-place at St. Michael Albertville and first-place at Princeton.

With coaches to help them with monologues in humorous, prose, extemporaneous reading, speeches, informative, great speeches, drama, creative expression, duo, information, original oratory, impromptu and storytelling, individuals memorize their pieces to compete at meets against other schools.

One speech team member said she feels as if she is performing her own solo play every week.

"I was terrible at public speaking," said Dannie Johnson, who never thought she'd end up on the speech team. But after a teacher talked to her, she decided to try it and competes at every meet in prose. There's a thin line telling a story and being too over-the-top, she said. In her performance, Johnson portrays a hoarder.

Maddie Franz, who was in One-Act and was on her middle school speech team, said she still shakes a little before competing in creative expression.

Victoria Lennartson said she joined in 10th grade because she wanted to be a better actress. She also had a part in this year's One-Act.

Her performance piece is about abusive relationships.

When going through a list of audition material, Molly Moran, looked at the humor piece and was already reciting it in her head. She took a first place in the Princeton meet.

"She has a humorous face," said Franz.

"Like I have a humorous face for radio," Moran said.

They feed off each other and watch each other grow over several years, Vaith said. They also encourage each other between elimination rounds. During a meet, it's not unusual to see students practicing and gesturing before hall lockers.

"Lockers don't judge you," Danny said.

When speech team members graduate, they come back as judges and coaches who help kids in specific categories pick and learn their performance pieces.

Coaches this year include Assistant Coach Tony Wallin, and coaches Katie Swanson, Kim Zamora, Lisa Yani, Kim Scoffield, Steve Estenson and Denise Atkinson.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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