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Area students excel at state speech

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LUVERNE -- Students from southwest Minnesota school districts had a strong showing in the recent state speech competition Friday and Saturday at Chanhassen High School.

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Two students were named state champions, while six others placed in the top eight at the tournament.

Londyn Robinson, a senior in Luverne, earned her second state championship during Friday's competition in Class A. In 2010, she took top honors at the state meet.

Rachel Wilson of Mountain Lake Christian (MLC) was the gold medalist for informative speaking. This year was the first year Mountain Lake Christian was represented at state level for speech.

Robinson competed in the discussion category -- an area in which she has competed since eighth grade.

"The biggest difference in discussion compared to other categories is that it's a collaboration between competitors," Robinson said.

Participants are judged based on their contribution to the group, debate skills and the research conducted.

This year, state finalists discussed the impact issues pertaining to world hunger -- specifically, concerning genetically modified organisms and trading of food items on global commodities markets.

After months of research, she arrived at the state tournament with four binders and three books.

"It's a lot of hours spent at the library, but it paid off," she said.

A science enthusiast, Robinson said she "lucked out" twice at state meets where she won first place.

"The other year I won, the topic was '21st century Science and Technology,'" she said, adding that she will be majoring in molecular biology at the University of Minnesota.

Robinson credits much of her success to her coach, Jerry Benson.

"He's a great personal mentor and a smart individual so it has been quite an honor working with him," she said.

Likewise, Benson, who has watched Robinson grow since eighth grade, complimented her work ethic.

"Her strengths are her research and analytical skills," said the longtime speech coach who has coached Luverne students for 31 years. "She's one of the hardest workers I've ever had."

For Wilson, earning first place at her first state meet was a great way to end her senior year, especially after giving up the opportunity to participate in the Bethel University forensics team.

As a PSEO student at Bethel, Wilson said it was a difficult decision but she wanted to commit one last year to her high school speech team.

"A lot of people thought I was nuts because I commuted home every weekend for the tournaments," she said. "It was worth it."

On days she couldn't commute for practice, she would practice with her mom Kim Friesen, who is the MLC coach, via Skype.

Students are given eight minutes for informative speaking to present an original idea with the optional use of visual aid. Wilson's topic, "The Visual Connection," addressed the idea that what a person sees will affect his or her world views and decision-making.

"I incorporated a contemporary humor in my presentation to connect to the audience," she said.

Wilson was the only MLC representative at the speech meet this year. The MLC speech team is a fairly new team, which started three years ago when the school joined the Minnesota State High School League.

"We're thrilled with how it turned out this year," Friesen said. "We're a really small school so it was good to know we definitely excel in academics."

In Adrian, a newcomer to speech -- Sydne Springman -- won second place for the great speeches category.

Springman, who joined the speech team last year and won third at state, said that she was more nervous this time around because of the stronger competition.

The only area student to compete in Class AA was Jackie Martin of Worthington.

"I was very happy with how I did because I was competing against really talented students," said Martin, who earned third place. "It made me feel good."

Other area students who placed at state were: Tommy McCarthy of Adrian, fourth place in informative speaking, Justice Redding of Adrian, sixth place in extemporaneous reading, Mijah Murden, of Windom, second place in poetry, and Thomas Hacker of Windom, eighth place in serious prose interpretation.

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