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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Theo Buysse, Minneota, and Genna Putnam, Worthington, were two of the more than 240 students representing 20 schools that competed in Saturday's speech tournament at WHS. Both Buysse and Putnam ar juniors and competed in the storytelling category.

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WORTHINGTON -- In only their second meet of the 2012 season, the 32 Worthington High School (WHS) speech team members proved they are primed to succeed.

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Among a field of 21 participating teams from around the region, the Trojans finished second -- but as they were the hosts of the Trojan Tournament, held last Saturday at WHS, they don't officially claim the silver prize.

"As the host school, we send our trophies away, but the team did very well, no doubt about it," said WHS speech coach Linda Neugebauer. "It's very encouraging they're doing so well this early in the season."

More than 260 entries competed in Saturday's Trojan Tournament, which commenced at 9 a.m. and ended around 3 p.m. -- a fairly typical speech meet schedule.

"Our kids have a lot on their plate, and I admire their ability to balance it all," said Neugebauer, noting that about one-third of the WHS speech students were also involved in the WHS musical last weekend. "They are very committed kids."

With 13 different competition categories from which to choose, sophomore Alex Tang has opted to jump from competing in original oratory (his niche in 2011) to prose this year.

"I kind of prefer prose so far," Tang said. "It's more acting-based -- a complete 180 from last year.

Tang's switch has already paid off; he earned a first-place finish on Saturday, perhaps aided in part by a small secret he imparted.

"I usually give myself a little face massage -- rub my temples a little -- before I present," he continued.

Ana Lozano, a junior also competing in prose, had a strong finish in the category as well, earning a blue ribbon for excellence. Lozano, president of WHS's FCCLA group, was in the midst of a busy and heady week, having qualified on Wednesday for state FCCLA competition and performed as "Frenchy" in the WHS production of "Grease."

"Hopefully I did really well today," she said on Saturday of her speech presentation.

Coach Neugebauer explained that she offers a two-day speech in-service for WHS speech participants over the Christmas break, while January is spent preparing for competition.

"We go to eight official tournaments during February and March, with section competition in April and state competition following that," Neugebauer said.

"Speech is one of the last academic activities that's performance-based and that also teaches critical thinking and analysis," she said, explaining that speech members spend at least 30 minutes each week working on their entries with a coach. "It requires them to achieve the highest form of critical thinking."

And some speech categories require a high degree of dramatic interpretation, including the humorous category.

For example, WHS junior Caleb Dirksen, now in his third year competing in the humorous category, assumes three different personas -- only one of them male -- in his selection for this season, a twist on Tennessee Williams' acclaimed play "The Glass Menagerie" titled "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls" by Christopher Durang.

Dirksen, a veteran performer in WHS plays and musicals, deftly swings from one character to another in a convincing manner that earned him a fifth-place finish in a healthy field of 38 entries.

His teammate, WHS senior Whitney Prins, captured second place in that competitive category.

"We are looking forward to a fantastic season," assured Neugebauer, adding that the team competes next Saturday at Redwood Valley and the following weekend at Mankato East. "We have great senior leadership and fantastic kids with a tremendous work ethic."

Team results for the Trojan Tournament were: Mankato Loyola, first place; [WHS, host, unofficial second place]; Mountain Lake Christian, second place; Marshall, third place; and St. Peter, fourth place.

Individual place winners for WHS were: Drama: Cesar Montejo - Excellence. Creative Expression: Drew Fornoff and Anny Sompamitwong - Excellence. Discussion: Ashley Jansma, fourth place. Extemporaneous Speaking: Larry Leovan and Jennifer Mayorga, Excellence. Prose: Alex Tang, first place, and Ana Lozano, Excellence. Original Oratory: Cheniqua Johnson, sixth place. Storytelling: Jack Martin, first place; Genna Putnam, third place; Kaili Burger, Excellence. Extemporaneous Reading: Lexy Teerink, second place. Humorous: Whitney Prins, second place; Caleb Dirksen, fifth place; Ivan Parga and Paulina Bouavitchith, Excellence. Informative: John Martin, third place.

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