The 2016-17 Speech, Drama and Debate season ended in Havre on Saturday, Jan. 28 with mixed emotions. On one hand, the team is proud to bring home a two time state champion in Humorous Solo, sophomore Devon Solberg and a 2nd place finish in Original Oratory for our exchange student from Sweden, Ellen Widell. Devon chose to once again use Patrick McManus as his source of comedy and delivered a hilarious piece about two friends, Crazy Eddy and “Lucky to be Alive” Pat, who somehow managed to survive their childhood escapades, which included building their very own glider that actually flew and even a submarine. Devon’s high energy performance and enthusiasm led him to his second straight state championship, not an easy feat for anyone. Ellen Widell discussed accepting the challenges of breaking out of our bubbles and trying something new. She reminded us that while brave people don’t live forever, people who don’t take a few chances don’t live at all. Ellen also highlighted the differences in American and Swedish culture, including comments about American’s driving habits, such as driving into signs, and taking home left-overs from restaurants.
On the other hand, many students were disappointed that, despite making it to finals and performing to the best of their abilities, their final placing wasn’t as high as they had hoped it would be.
Two outstanding seniors, Anna Espeland and Megan Greiff, presented a beautiful and haunting dramatic duo piece that paid homage to the Holocaust. These two young ladies received many compliments and a great deal of praise from not only their judges, but also the parents of fellow competitors, competitors themselves, and even coaches. The first morning of state, the two were approached by a coach who had no idea where they were from, but wanted to thank them for their courage and for their efforts to not let the tragedy be forgotten. As an individual of Jewish descent, he felt compelled to recognize them for their efforts. In addition, several others congratulated them on their piece, telling the two seniors that their piece was highly thought of among all who attended state. Anna and Megan finished in 7th place at state; these two young ladies were disappointed as they put a great deal of pressure on themselves to do well. Carole Bettenhausen, one of the coaches of the Spartan team, commented, “Although it doesn’t mean a great deal right now, as they are still disappointed that they didn’t finish higher, I believe that in a few years they will treasure the comments made by strangers and the “thank you” from the coaches more than a higher finish. Their hard work, excellence, and determination did not go unnoticed and they truly touched the hearts of all who had the privilege of watching their piece. While everyone wants to win first place, we can’t ignore their courage and determination. After all, how many students don’t even try; these two poured all their energy and time into this beautiful presentation. They have a great deal to be proud of, and their teammates and coaches are all amazed at the depth of their performances. They didn’t resort to flashy sensationalism or simple yelling; they have made a lasting impression on all who had a chance to watch them. Medals will tarnish or get thrown away, but the impact they have made on their audiences will last a lifetime.”
Jaden Miller, another senior who boasts a state championship from 2014-15, wrote an original oratory detailing the tornado that touched not only the homes and lives of people in our community, but also their hearts. In Jaden’s description of the tornado, the audience visualized the terror and devastation and also the community spirit and volunteerism that was witnessed in the aftermath. She discussed how helping to clean up and actually pick up pieces of people’s lives touched her and encouraged her to find time to help others. This speech serves as an outstanding example of how we can set aside our own interests and help others in need. One startling statistic presented by Jaden was the fact that people in our society today spend an average of 9 hours and 25 minutes per day on ourselves and only 14 minutes on others. Her speech urges us to change that ratio and learn the beauty and joy of volunteering. Again, Jaden’s speech certainly impacted her listeners and made them re-evaluate their priorities in life.
Another senior, Isaac Rost, is also a state champion from the 2013-14 season in Classical Duo with his teammate Darby Bettenhausen. As a junior, Isaac made the decision to switch to speech, specifically Impromptu. In this very difficult and challenging event, students are given a quote or a cartoon and then given 3 minutes to write a speech that addresses, interprets, and offers advice based on the theme. This is a demanding event and unlike many other speech events, where the students compete with a prepared and memorized speech. Isaac accepted the challenge and performed very well throughout the two years. Many of his speeches drew on lessons or stories from his own family and past. Isaac finished his senior year in 5th place at state. Isaac is a very gifted speaker and has proven time and time again that he is never at a loss for words.
Taiken Goerndt is a very talented and dynamic speaker who delivered a beautifully written and presented speech titled “Shake the Dust”, which reminds us all that we are all connected and each individual is a crucial part of the whole. Taiken had quite the following this year; there were many individuals who would go to her rounds just to watch her elegant and fluid delivery and listen to her words of encouragement. Taiken finished in 9th place at state and her support and willingness to lead will be missed in the coming years. Taiken has a very positive attitude that does not allow time for regrets but highlights all the many accomplishments she has achieved and the impact she has had on her fellow competitors. Students and coaches know that they can always depend on Taiken to ignore the negativity and find the joy in life.
Casey Wyrwas, a junior and a first year member of the team, placed 7th in Dramatic Solo. This was a very impressive finish for Casey, considering that an illness had kept him out of competition and that state was only the 2nd meet at which he presented his act. Casey’s performance, entitled “Ecstasy”, highlights the dangers of drug use and has a surprising and tragic twist at the end.
Other individuals who competed at state included Ty Tolzien, who wrote his own dramatic solo piece that is actually a motivational speech. In his cutting, Ty urges his listeners to NOT give in to depression and apathy, but rather to summon the strength to vanquish those demons and live lives of meaning and purpose. Ty had a very impressive showing at state and placed 9th overall.
Rachel Rost, a freshman, competed in a very difficult event, Humorous Oral Interp. Rachel finished in 9th place, only one place out of finals. Rachel is a very talented young lady who is sure to see a great deal of success in her future years of competition.
Moriah Kesinger, a 4 year competitor, delivered an informative and intriguing speech about the history of graffiti. She even included some of her own artwork as part of the presentation. Many of her listeners were delighted to finally discover the source of the quote “Kilroy was here” and to learn more about this fascinating form of art.
Bo Rost and Jolyn Rost wrote a unique and hilarious spoof on the classic tale of “Romeo and Juliet” and set their scene in the days of the Old West, complete with a posse and square dances. Bo even managed to weave a scene from “Monty Python” into this modernized play.
Two very talented debaters, senior Emalee Thurlow and Taylyn Dukart, experienced very close debates at state and had excellent rounds, but unfortunately did not make it to the final round. Taylyn finished in 9th place and Emalee in 10th. Both of these young ladies are very persuasive and had close matches, usually losing a match by only one point. Emalee is a senior and the team will miss her input and hard work next year. The team will look to Taylyn for leadership next year.
Tannon Dukart is another member who missed finals by only one point and finished in 9th place. Tannon competes in Extemporaneous Speaking, which is not a prepared speech. Instead, contestants draw 3 topics about current national and international affairs and are given 30 minutes to prepare a speech that answers the question they have drawn. One of the questions Tannon spoke on this year was how the change in leadership in Thailand will affect the country’s impact on the world.
Coach Jennifer Dukart commented that the seniors will truly be missed next year, as they had over 25 years of combined experience. They have definitely left a huge impact on their fellow teammates and also the Speech, Drama and Debate program at Baker High School. They are demonstrated not only how to react when they win, but also how to react when they don’t place as high as they would like. Their positive attitudes and determination serve as reminders that the only shame comes from not trying. The coaches and teammates will be looking for dedicated members, new and old, to fill their spots next season. The time, attitude, and encouragement these seniors have given to the program is truly appreciated by coaches, teammates, and the Baker community.