Speech team hot
Knees knock as perspiration beads up on your forehead before trickling down the sides of your face. Your mouth suddenly becomes dry and your lips tremble, making it difficult to enunciate words properly.
You suddenly realize you would rather be almost anywhere than where you are right now. Welcome to the world of most students who have to get up in front of a group of people and speak. Just don’t include the members of the Minneota speech team in the aforementioned group. “I like the entire experience,” said senior Peter Engels about being a member of the speech team. “From the long and strenuous Saturday meets and the weekday practices to the quirkiness of the individuals involved.”
Engels isn’t alone. In fact, his statements are likely echoed by the entire Minneota speech team. And the exuberance and confidence they have shown this season has led to a hoarding of hardware.
Coming off a week in which the team had five meets in eight days, Minneota had seven individual champions, 10 runners-up, nine third-place, four fourth, five fifths, one sixth, and five ribbons. During that same stretch, the team placed second in Montevideo, third at the Luverne meet and fifth in a meet in Hancock. “They take it all in stride and work hard to perfect their performance to do their best,” said Kim Gades, who is in her fifth season as coach. “We all strive to represent Minneota our best.”
“This group is highly motivated to do well, and they continue to set team and individual goals and do everything in their power to achieve those goals.” Amanda Engels has been the assistant coach the past five years. “(Amanda) is such a good advocate for the team and always offers great advice and support for the students,” said Gades about her sidekick. “She is a calming influence on both me and the kids.” “There are not a lot of speech coaches around that don’t work at a school, but Amanda has always made the team a priority. She’s amazing.”
The team consists of 24 members in grades 7-12, up from 19 a season ago. There are also four sixth graders that are eligible to compete in junior high meets, which is for grades 6-9, while varsity meets are for grades 7-12. Even though there are only two seniors on the team — Peter Engels and Nick Bot — Minneota is rich in experience. Engels has been on the team since seventh grade, while Bot is in his third year on the team.
Many of the others have spent several years on the team. “I can see the team and teammates improving consistently,” said Peter Engels. “They get better because they practice and listen to our consistently successful coaches, Kim and Amanda. And that experience coupled with the experience of the coaches and the time that all parties dedicate to the activity certainly contributes.”
There are also three juniors, two sophomores, eight freshmen, three eighth-graders, six seventh-graders and four sixth-graders on the team. “Our biggest group is the freshmen,” said Gades. “I have been involved with many of them since they were in fifth grade as their teacher. Several went out for speech when they were in sixth grade and others have joined as the years have progressed.”
Varsity members attend eight meets during the regular season and those on the junior high team attend five meets. The sub-section meet will be held April 1 in Minneota. Sectionals are April 8 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
The speech team will be hosting their annual “Speech and Sweets” event on Monday, April 10. For a free will donation, this event gives the public a chance to hear some of the award winning speeches while enjoying some sweet treats.
And the Class A state meet will be held April 22 in Apple Valley. Hannah Buysse, now graduated, was Minneota’s lone state entrant last year. But of the seven team members who made it into the section finals last season, five are on the current team. And those experienced team members have meshed well with an enthusiastic group of newcomers to produce a solid speech team. “These kids work so hard,” said Gades. “It is required for them to come in to individual practice once per week and during their assigned group practice times.” “A lot is done at home. They come in and give their speech. (Amanda and I) give them feedback, and they try to apply it. Kids have practiced in the mornings, after school, before school, on the bus, and even during lunch or free periods.” And the more the team members practice and give speeches in competition, the more confident they become.
“Confidence definitely plays a role in our activity. Once they start getting comfortable, then we are able to break down their speeches and really help them nail their performances,” said Gades. “Once the season gets going, a lot can get thrown at them like watching their enunciation, add some gestures, how would a cat walk, and so on. They take it all in stride and work hard to perfect their performance to do their best.” When Gades and Engels started coaching in 2012-13, they initially set a goal to compile enough team members that they would need a bus to take them to meets.
“That came true in the 2014-15 season,” said Gades. “After that, (the goal) was to earn team trophies and that came true at the end of last year.” This year’s goal is for the team to place at the section meet. And if the consistency in its success this season is any indication, that goal will also likely be met.
“We have been fortunate this year to be placing in the top three pretty consistently,” said Gades. “We started to creep up in team rankings toward the end of the year last year, placing third at Luverne, Montevideo and sub-sections.”
Minneota finished in second place among 12 teams at a meet Saturday in Montevideo, concluding five meets over an eight-day span. “Earlier this year some meets got switched around,” said Coach Kim Gades.
“After we were able to look at the calendar, we saw that we had this big lump of meets.” “Instead of backing out of them, we let the kids know in advance that this was going to be ‘Speech Mega Week’. We divided out some of the meets so our youngest teammates wouldn’t burn out.” This was the seventh time the team has placed in a meet this season. Individually, Minneota amassed 13 top-four awards in Montevideo to go along with three ribbons.
Placing first for Minneota was senior Peter Engels in Drama, freshman Brenden Kimpe in Extemporaneous Reading, and freshman Sean Dilley in Informative. Cecilia Rabaey, a freshman, finished second in Creative Expression. Cora Engels, a junior, placed second in Extemporaneous Reading; senior Nick Bot and junior Cole Bot earned second place in Duo; and junior Sarah Engels was second in Great Speeches. Rachel Engels, a sophomore, finished in third place in Informative; sophomore Trevor Belaen was fourth in Discussion; freshman Zoe DeBoer, fourth in Humorous; eighth-grader Ben Engels, fourth in Storytelling; freshmen Natalie Bot and Tara Thooft, fifth in Duo; and seventh-grader Emma Lipinski, fifth in Great Speeches.
Earning ribbons at the meet were freshmen Jacob Haen and Paige Welsh in Duo, seventh-graders Teagan Welsh and Morgen Wersal in Duo, and seventh-grader Alyssa Engels in Extemporaneous Reading.