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Shown are many WHS speech team members on March 15 after their participation in the meet at Luverne. (Submitted photo)

WHS speech team heads for sections Saturday

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WORTHINGTON — After competing in eight regular-season meets, the Worthington High School (WHS) speech team heads northeast on Saturday to participate in the Section 2AA speech contest at Mankato West.

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“We’re taking a squad of 16 to sections,” said Linda Neugebauer, who coaches the Trojan talkers along with Anna Korver. “We have a lot of talent, but we’re a very young team overall.

“We’re excited and hopeful.”

Although the Trojans have enjoyed success this season, on both a team and individual basis, the Section 2AA speech meet places them in head-to-head competition against large schools with powerhouse speech teams, such as Chanhassen, Shakopee, Chaska and Marshall.

“It’s a tough section, but everybody on our team is a ‘go’ and we will try our very best,” said Neugebauer. “We have some shining stars who have worked really hard, and we’re hoping that the right combination of hard work and good luck will help get them through.”

The top three finishers in each of the 13 speech categories will qualify for state speech competition, which takes place the following weekend in Blaine.

“Among our team, 11 of the 13 speech categories are represented,” noted Neugebauer. “Some of the kids started working for the season in late December, and our first competition was at the end of January.”

On every Saturday but one since then, the Trojan speech students have risen early to travel to meets in New Ulm, Mankato, St. Peter, Fairmont and Luverne.

“It’s been a busy season,” said Neugebauer, “but these are terrific kids who are great to travel with, and they have a terrific work ethic.”

Whatever the outcome at the section competition, Neugebauer knows she and Korver will have a strong group of returning students next year because this year’s crowd includes only two seniors: Ariana Lopez, a competitor in Great Speeches and Prose, and Brandon Stuntebeck (Creative Expression).

“This is the smallest number of seniors I’ve ever had,” said Neugebauer, a WHS speech team coach for 15 years. Neugebauer praised her co-coach, Korver, saying, “She’s wonderful and has been a great addition to the team.”

Neugebauer is committed to speech in part because she sees students realize impressive gains in confidence and knowledge through their involvement.

“You can’t find another high school activity that ties in better with academics than speech,” she endorsed. “It requires critical thinking, writing, observation, communication — everything we want students to know.

“And the kids are phenomenal — they’re working harder all the time.”

Individual results from the Trojan speech team’s participation at the March 22 New Ulm Speech Invitational (at which they placed third in the large team division):

Karina Cuate, first in Extemporaneous Reading; Andrea Magana, first place in Original Oratory; Ariana Lopez, second place in Great Speeches (and seventh place in Prose); Brandon Stuntebeck, second place in Creative Expression; Brianna Kempema, third place in Extemporaneous Reading; Bianca Alvarez, third place in Storytelling; Christopher Mayorga, fourth place in Original Oratory; Elyzabeth Coriolan, fourth place in Drama; Ivan Parga, sixth place in Humorous; Brighid Hegarty, Excellence in Extemporaneous Reading; and D.J. Lambert, Excellence in Extemporaneous Speaking.

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