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Rugby High to host Region 4 speech competition

By Sue Sitter - | Apr 10, 2021

Submitted Photo Rugby High speech team members are, from left to right: Lauren Westphal, Allison Selensky, Amber Selensky, Katelyn Duchscher, Kason Connot, Haylee Heilman, Brooklyn Hager, Annie Risovi. Not pictured are Ree Fox, Haley Mayer, Zarah Mae Keenan and Katherine Arnold.

Despite a shortened season and restrictions on competition, Rugby High School speech team members are “excited to be out there and going to meets,” according to coach Dana Thoreson.

The team hosts the Region 4 Class B Championships this year at Rugby High School April 10 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Each of the 13 events in the competition will take place in separate venues around the campus due to crowd size limits imposed by the North Dakota High School Activities Association to address concerns for COVID-19. Thoreson said the competition will not be open to the public.

Thoreson said the pandemic has also affected the number of Region 4 schools competing.

“Typically, some of the schools that normally compete aren’t this year due to a variety of things,” Thoreson noted. “We typically start our season January, but we were waiting for the high school activities association to give us the go-ahead.”

“That didn’t come until the middle of February,” Thoreson said. “I don’t know if the other teams weren’t up and ready at that time or just lost the wind in their sails, too.”

“So, currently, we have Harvey, Rugby, Rolette, Langdon and Starkweather competing,” Thoreson noted.

“We’re expecting about 50 students, roughly, on average,” Thoreson said. “Each student can participate in two events.”

Team members had the opportunity to choose from 13 events in the competition.

“We have humorous, dramatic, inform, entertain, persuade, humorous duo, serious duo, extemporaneous public speaking, storytelling and impromptu,” Thoreson said, naming some of the events. “Then we have just plain extemporaneous speech. There are quite a few.”

“Extemporaneous, EPR (extemporaneous programmed response) and storytelling are what we call draw events and the students have a limited amount of prep time, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the event,” Thoreson explained.

“They get their piece, they have 30 to 60 minutes to prepare, then they present it in front of a judge,” she added.

“Then, the rest of the events are prepared speeches, so the students have picked their pieces, they’ve cut them, they’re polishing them throughout the season and working on them,” Thoreson noted.

“Normally by this time, we’ve gone to 12 meets,” Thoreson added. “This year, we’ve gone to five.”

Another difference for regionals this year will affect who goes to state.

“At regionals, (judges will) take the top two qualifiers in each event, then they’ll advance to state,” Thoreson said.

“In past years, students would pre-qualify. Anyone placing in first place at meets during the school year would automatically advance to state, provided they came to regionals. But this year, everyone’s coming into regionals not qualified, because what they’re trying to do at the state level is to keep the numbers at the events low for contact because if you qualified during the year, they could have hundreds of students at state,” Thoreson said, adding, “But if you limit (the qualifiers) to regions, they can keep the numbers low and I understand that. I respect that.”

“This year, coming to regionals is the only chance at state,” Thoreson said. “It’s a little nerve wracking for some of them but there are so many talented kids in Rugby and in our region as well, that it’ll be a good meet. There’s lots of very equal competition there.”

“We’re expecting about 50 students, roughly, on average (at regionals),” Thoreson said. “Each student can participate in two events.”

“We have 12 kids on our team,” Thoreson said.

Rugby High School’s team consists of five eighth graders, three freshmen, one sophomore, two juniors and one senior.

“They all compete at the same level,” Thoreson said. “In speech, there’s no junior varsity or varsity.”

“Seventh and eighth graders are competing against seniors,” Thoreson noted. “So, kids that have done this for one or two years are competing against students who have done this for six, which can be a little intimidating.”

However, Thoreson said the younger team members have advantages.

“They’ve got a lot of peers they can learn from and they just have more of a drive,” she said. “I see a lot of the younger kids set their goals. They say, ‘I’m going to keep at it and I’ll get there, too.’ And we have had seventh and eighth graders come in and state qualify.”

“Rugby has a lot of talented kids,” Thoreson added. “I’m excited and hoping we have a few advancing to state and I think we will.”

“Zarah Mae Keenan is my only senior,” Thoreson said, naming students representing Rugby. “Zarah has a dramatic interpretation as well as a draw event. She’s very strong in both events. Katelyn Duchscher has gone to state in storytelling. She’s a junior and this is at least her third year or possibly her fourth. I’m a little optimistic about her. Should she qualify, she’s a very strong competitor for storytelling in our region.”

Thoreson said both had qualified for state during their time on the team.

“Last year, I’m pretty sure (Duchscher) had pre-qualified for state before COVID hit us,” she noted, adding, “Should our season have finished last year, she would have made it.”

Thoreson said of other competitors in the region, “Harvey has a very large and a very strong team. Rolette also has some good talent there.”

However, she added, “As far as storytellers, I would say Katelyn is in the top of the region. Her chances are very good.”

“Harvey and Rolette have some very strong duos,” Thoreson added. “We have an eighth grade duo that is green right now. They’re good, but the competition with Rolette and Harvey is pretty steep with those duos.”

Thoreson described duos as “two participants with a prepared script, and each takes a part and they compete together. They each take a part. It’s usually a dialogue between two people or sometimes multiple characters, so they play at least one if not multiple characters.”

“It takes a lot of practice as a duo together,” Thoreson said. “They need to be in sync, and they can’t make direct eye contact so there’s a lot they have to be aware of with their partner to make it good and to make it clean.”

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for both parties just to get that down. So, there’s some tough competition out there but I think we’ve got some young competition that’s going to get up there, too,” Thoreson added.

Thoreson said Rugby High has “come close to winning state but to my knowledge, we have not. We’ve had kids place in the top eight at state but taking home the first place title has not happened yet.”

“It’s definitely a goal for them,” Thoreson added.

“I’m excited for regionals. The season was short this year but that hasn’t stopped them from being excited about it and working hard so I’m really proud of them,” she said of her team.

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