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home : local news : local news July 26, 2017

4/29/2017 7:29:00 AM
Walker Talkers earn two medals at state speech tournament
By Ben Offerman, WHA Speech Coach

The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley speech team completed the 2017 speech season after competing at the Minnesota State Speech Tournament Saturday, April 22 at Apple Valley High School. The team boarded the bus early Friday morning and headed south towards the twin cities. The team attended the Class AA tournament Friday afternoon to watch and support the large school category of the state competition, then competed on Saturday. Seven speakers were entered in competition from WHA along with one alternate. Of the seven speakers entered in competition, two speakers advanced to the final round and earned state medals.

Qualifying for the state tournament is not an easy task. All of the speakers that advance out of sections have spent the season competing on weekends- refining their craft. It takes dedication and determination to advance out of sections and compete against the top 24 speakers in your category. Speaking at the state tournament is an honor, even if it doesn't result in a medal. The following speakers competed at the state tournament, but did not advance to a final round: Kobey Cofer competed in Extemporaneous Reading, Molly Massar competed in Storytelling, Willow Damar competed in Original Oratory, Parker Kline competed in Serious Prose, and Matthew Koring competed in Humor. Raven Wales attended the tournament as a 2nd alternate in Informative.

Speakers at the state tournament are comprised of the top three speakers in each category from each of the eight sections in Minnesota. That means that at the tournament, each category is made up of the top 24 speakers in the state; speakers that advance to the final round have scored within the top eight of their category. Two Walker speakers scored within the top eight of their categories and earned state medals.

Emma Burpo advanced to the final round and placed 4th overall in Serious Prose. This is Emma's fourth year competing in the speech program. She began in eighth grade in Serious Prose and has now medaled twice in that category- taking second place at state last year. Emma has also been successful in Duo Interpretation at invitational tournaments throughout the season. Emma will be returning to the team next year for another season of success.

Ellie Hansen advanced to the final round and placed first amongst her 24 competitors, becoming the Class A state champion in Original Oratory. This is Ellie's fifth year competing in the speech program and her second state medal; she earned a 6th place medal in Creative last year. Over the course of her five years in competition, Ellie has competed and been successful in four different categories: Storytelling, Creative, Duo, and Oratory. She will also be returning next year to continue a successful speech career.

At the end of each season, many speakers leave their old speeches behind in pursuit of success with a new speech for the next season. However, for two Walker state speech competitors, this was their last year in the high school speech program. As seniors, Matthew Koring and Parker Kline completed their high school speech careers with performances at the state tournament.

Parker Kline joined speech as an 8th grader in the category of Storytelling. After his eighth grade year, Parker changed categories and joined Serious Prose. In this category Parker experienced a lot of success, which eventually lead to an appearance at the state tournament. Parker's road to the state tournament was not easy, but he was unwilling to give up. A message that we as coaches constantly deliver to younger speakers is that sometimes winning doesn't happen for several years in the program. In Parker's case, he stayed determined each year and finally advanced to state his senior year. This type of resolve is a quality that makes successful speakers- and as a team captain, Parker demonstrated that every Saturday morning. With Parker, the team was also gifted with another dedicated member. Lucinda Kline, Parker's grandmother, rode the bus every morning during each season that Parker competed, and joined the team in our letdowns and victories at each tournament. She was an equal member of the team and will be missed as Parker begins his life beyond high school.

Matthew Koring, co-captain of the speech team, joined as a 7th grader in the category of Humor. Matthew is one of the few members on the Walker Speech Team to earn four state medals and make five state appearances. Matthew began his career in Humor and experienced success each year. This year, in addition to competing at the state tournament, Matthew earned a Minnesota Speech Coaches Association award- The All-State Speech Team. This award is comprised of 66 seniors from both class A and AA schools. There are several criteria for the award, some of which includes: attending 75% of tournaments, making at least two state appearances, and being an overall positive force on the team. Matthew met and exceeded these criteria. As a co-captain of the team, Matthew was a positive influence on younger speakers. He experienced success with humility, and never allowed himself to become arrogant or boastful. Matthew worked extremely hard each season, spreading his focus across speech, basketball, and academics. He will certainly find success outside of the speech program, and his participation will be admired by future speakers on the team.

The Class A tournament ended Saturday afternoon with the announcement of the team awards. Cannon Falls took first place overall, followed by St. Cloud Cathedral in second, and East Grand Forks and Mounds Park Academy tied for third.

With the end of the season comes reflection and relaxation. Now, with Saturday mornings free, coaches can focus on improving the team for next season. The three Walker coaches, Stewart Wilson, Katelin DeLorenzo, and Ben Offerman will be hard at work preparing for another successful season. On behalf of the team, I would like to recognize those who have made this season possible; our success is your success. So, to the parents, guardians, grandparents, relatives, friends, community members, and administrators who support our team, we extend our deepest gratitude, and hope that your support will continue for years to come.

Even though the final tournament has passed, there is still competition to come. This summer, the National Speech and Debate Association tournament will take place in Birmingham, Alabama, and two Walker speakers will be competing. Emma Burpo and Matthew Koring have qualified for the tournament and will be competing against the top speakers in the country. If you would like to help fund their trip, please visit their gofundme page at: Finally, there is one more local speech event. Matthew and Emma will be speaking at the rotary meeting on May 23rd. The speech season is long, and like any other activity we have experienced our own fair share of ups and downs. However, by analyzing our weaknesses and returning with new strengths, we can continue to succeed as a team. Even though the early morning bus rides have stopped- the yearning for competition has not.

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