Worthington High School students Oziel Briones and Emma Singler earn honors at state speech tournament
“I knew I had a chance, and had to work for the opportunity,” Oziel Briones said.
WORTHINGTON — After facing fierce competition at sections, two Worthington High School students earned the right to contend against the top speakers in Minnesota at state speech last weekend, where both excelled.
Oziel Briones, a junior from Worthington, finished seventh in the Humorous category, and Emma Singler, a senior from Lakefield, took 13th in Creative Expression, a category new to her this year.
“These two have been amazing,” said Brandon Caster, co-head coach of the team, along with Linda Neugebauer and Erin Makela.
Apart from their dedication and success, Briones and Singler have very different styles and participated in very different events.
Briones selected “Removing the Glove,” a monologue by Clarence Khey Coo, for his humorous speech, which uses the metaphor of left-handedness to examine what it’s like to be part of a disadvantaged group.
As a junior, Briones is part of the first WHS class that could start participating in speech in seventh grade, and he did start out in the Humorous category back then.
“I was never really that good at it, but I was committed to get good at it, and that’s why I stuck with it until now,” he said.
Singler, who started attending Worthington High School last year but has years of experience in speech, competed in the Humorous category for three years before switching to Informative, in which participants write their own speeches. She enjoys writing, but felt limited by the constraints of the Informative category and so switched again to Creative Expression for her final year.
Students in Creative Expression get to write their own material, and it can be just about anything. Singler took advantage of her freedom, and adapted a monologue she’d written in a theater class called “Painting the Roses Red” for speech.
A far cry from her initial efforts in the Humorous category, Singler’s “Roses” tells the story of a teenager who witnesses a horrific accident and how she copes with it in unhealthy ways afterward.
“I laughed a little, I cried a little… it was just a really great speech,” Caster said, praising Singler’s writing.
Singler started the season with high hopes of going to state, but as the speech season went on it became clear that Minnesota’s talent pool was extensive, and her confidence faded a bit.
“I was really shocked when I was called for state,” she said.
Briones, on the other hand, saw state-level competition as a very real possibility.
“I knew I had a chance, and had to work for the opportunity,” he said.
Both students worked hard to prepare for the contest, using different methods. Briones took time off between sections and state, but continued adjusting his choreography and other material throughout the season, right up until the day before the state meet. Singler practiced avidly between sections and recorded herself, adjusting her viewpoints and actions afterward.
Both emphasized the importance of listening to critiques from judges and adjusting performances based on that advice and both praised their competition and said they learned a lot from them, too.
“Go for it,” Briones said, when asked what he’d tell someone interested in participating in speech. “You’re going to get better. It’s fun whether you’re good at it or not.”
Singler advised newcomers to the activity that not everyone should stick to the first category they try, and to give themselves time to learn new things rather than expecting to be good in their first year.
“You do have to put a lot of time into it,” she added.