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Five RHS speech team members punch their tickets to state

By Sue Sitter - | Apr 24, 2021

Submitted Photo Rugby High School speech team members pose at the Region Four speech tournament held April 10. Top row from left are: Zarah-Mae Keenan, Lauren Westphal, Kason Connot, Haylee Heilman, Booklyn Hager and Katelyn Duchscher. Front row from left are: Haley Mayer, Amber Selensky, Allison Selensky and Katherine Arnold.

Five Rugby High School speech team members are headed to state competition in Mandan April 24 after qualifying at the Region Four finals held on the Rugby High campus April 10.

Qualifiers range from Katelyn Duchscher, a senior and speech veteran who’s appeared in state competitions since the seventh grade to Allison Selensky, an eighth grader who qualified for state on her first try at regionals.

Allison’s sister, junior Amber Selensky, senior Zarah-Mae Keenan and sophomore Angeline Risovi will also advance to the state tournament, to be held at Mandan High School.

“I state qualified in both dramatic and storytelling,” Duchscher said.

“Dramatic speech would be just a monologue that an author writes and it’s for one person only and they’re always sad or they have a darker meaning to them,” Duchscher explained. “I also do storytelling. Storytelling is what they call a draw event. I don’t know what I’ll be speaking about until I get to the competition. I have a story and I have 30 minutes to read it and prepare and tell it like I’m telling a story to a bunch of little kindergarteners,” she added with a smile.

Duchscher said she told a fable at regionals “about little animals and how they had to tell the king that the sky was falling. At state, it’ll be an entirely different children’s story. It’ll be drawn at random.”

“For my dramatic speech, I’m doing a piece called, ‘Blue,'” Duchscher said. “It’s about a mom who lives in the south. She has a baby that’s premature and it’s about her struggles with that. At the end of the piece, we don’t know if her baby lives or dies.”

“Hopefully, I’ll do pretty well,” Duchscher said of her performance at state. “The competition is definitely different this year. It’s going to be a lot smaller contest but at state this year, since it’s going to be smaller, you’re going to have the best of the best there.”

Would her familiarity with state competition make Duchscher less nervous?

“Probably not,” Duchscher said. “I’ll probably still be pretty nervous. It does help that I know what to expect and it helps that I know the location where it’s being held pretty well. I know Mandan High School. But I think the nerves are definitely still going to be there.”

Eighth grader Selensky said she felt “really amazing” to state-qualify after her first year on the team. Selensky missed out on competitive speech last year when the global COVID-19 pandemic canceled on-campus classes and activities.

“It’s such a great opportunity (to compete) because I’m so young and I get to go,” Selensky said. “I’m just really grateful that I get to go and I’m really excited for it. It’ll be fun.”

“I did speech to entertain,” Selensky said. “You write a piece to entertain people and give it to the audience. I did mine on annoying people. It relates to me a lot because I have a very short temper and I get annoyed easily, so I thought it would be really funny.”

Selensky said she gave humorous examples of annoying personalities to support her topic, which she chose “because people can relate to it.”

Sophomore Annie Risovi qualified for state in the impromptu category.

“We get two quotes,” Risovi said. “Usually you try to analyze them and break them down into three bullet points. I try to do it in about a minute. You have six minutes to present why you agree or disagree with this topic. It changes every time. It’s a draw event.”

Risovi said one of her favorite quotes was, “Don’t be too sweet, lest you get chewed up but don’t be too bitter, lest they spit you out.”

“I liked doing that one,” Risovi said.

“I’ve never qualified for state before,” Risovi said, adding, “I’m excited and nervous.”

Two regional participants missed qualifying for state but had opportunities to think on their feet. Both Kason Connot and Haylee Heilman said they were put in different events from the ones on their schedule.

Connot said after his planned humorous piece titled “Camp Sunshine,” he was given a dramatic assignment called “Ashes” instead of the piece he expected.

“It’s where a man’s house gets burned down and he thinks about all the nostalgia and things that happened in the house,” Connot said, noting he had to cut and prepare the speech in one day. He finished in seventh place.

“Like Kason said, I was put in the wrong event,” Heilman said. “I was supposed to be dramatic. My choices were extemporaneous programmed reading (EPR) or poetry. I chose poetry and I chose a piece called ‘Hunger Blog’ by Eve Ensler,” Heilman added. “It’s about a teenage girl and we see how her life is from her eyes because she has anorexia nervosa and it’s just eating away at her. She feeds into it in a way by saying, ‘I’m so fat.'”

“It’s a really sad piece but she adds some funny things into it almost to cope in a way,” Heilman added. Heilman placed fifth in the event.

Heilman also said she presented a radio commentary on true crime, placing fourth in that event. “It was about the ‘No Body, No Parole’ law in England and Australia,” she said. “If someone kills someone and they do not produce a body or the body isn’t found, the person who killed them doesn’t get parole.”

Another participant, freshman Haley Mayer, place third in two events. “I did poetry and (extemporaneous speech) and I place third in both of those,” Mayer said. “For extemp – because it’s a draw, I chose, ‘How Will January 6 be Remembered Throughout History?’ For poetry, I chose ‘The Princess Saves Herself in This One’ by Amanda Lovelace. It’s a story about loss, overcoming things and finding who you truly are.”

Another freshman, Lauren Westphal, placed seventh in the serious prose event with a presentation called “Losing Myself.”

“It’s sort of like dramatic except it has no stage direction,” Westphal said of the event, adding the spoken piece is “normally taken from a book. My piece was about a teenage girl who’s struggling with abuse from an ex-boyfriend. In the end, it was basically her trying to share her story and bring awareness to try to prevent it from happening to other teens.”

Another participant, eighth grader Brooklyn Hager placed fifth in the serious duo category along with teammate Katherine Arnold. “Ours was about a mother and a daughter,” Hager said. “The mother was explaining how the father, who had recently passed away, had affairs with other women in the middle of their marriage. It had jewelry in the story and talked about how the jewelry plays into this.”

“I also did poetry, another serious topic,” Hager said, noting a two-piece performance earned her fourth place in the event.

“I had one piece on bullying and one on a girl who wakes up the morning after she kills herself. She’s walking around in spirit seeing how her death affected everyone in her life,” Hager explained.

“This was the first time I had been to regionals,” Hager said. “I was in seventh grade during COVID. I thought regionals were really fun. I always like the atmosphere in speech. I feel like, even though you’re competing against people, you get to know them and become friends with them. It’s honestly great.”

All students returning to Rugby High next year said they planned to stay with the speech program.

“I think that more younger kids should get into this,” Hager said.

“Speech builds confidence and you gain so many connections as well. I’ve been to dozens of places. People ask what I do for fun and I tell them I’m in the speech program as well,” Duchscher said, adding, “People have a lot of respect for programs like this. It sits well with people and with employers.”

Selensky agreed. “You can be really creative with it and do what you want and things. You can cut how you want and write how you want and share your opinions and have fun with it.”

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