TAHS speech student will compete Saturday
By Per Peterson
It’s difficult enough to make it to the state speech tournament for kids who have been speaking English their whole life. Marian Schnell faced a unique challenge coming to the States this year as an exchange student, and not only has he overcome those challenges, he’s made it look easy, excelling to the point where he has developed into one of the most accomplished speakers in the state.
“I generally like to argue, and that’s what I’m doing in my category,” said the German-born Schnell, who is competing in the Extemporaneous Speaking category. “I didn’t do anything special language-wise.”
Schnell said he gets caught up on pronunciation from time to time, but doesn’t let that knock him off track during his speeches.
“It’s hard to understand some words, so that’s a little thing that slows me down,” he said.
Schnell admits to being somewhat surprised he has advanced as far as he has.
“It was a little bit (of) luck in sections,” he said. “I got good topics to talk about.”
Schnell and his teammates — Noah Tiegs, Sarita Hook, Anna Johnston and PaNhia and MaiDee Vang — will be headed to Apple Valley this weekend for the 2017 State Speech Tournament. The students will compete Saturday.
TAHS speech coach Alicia Peterson calls Schnell’s experience a memorable journey.
“In my experience, it is very rare to see an exchange student make it to the speech state tournament, and watching the whole team’s reaction when his placing was given at sections, when he earned a state trip, was so much fun,” she said. “Everyone has been rooting for him, and he’ll definitely be a competitor this weekend. I’m so thankful to Kris Tiegs for working with him over the season, and I hope that he had a great time this season. I’m so glad that he went out for the team.”
Last year, junior Sarita Hook was caught off guard by how strictly-run the state meet is and hopes to use that experience to improve on her fifth-place finish.
“I kind of know my way around now,” said Hook, who competes in Extemporaneous Reading. “It’s very strict. I can’t talk to anyone after I draw my slip and there’s people who escort you. They make sure I don’t communicate with anyone. At a regular meet you can say ‘hi’ to people as you walk by, but there you can’t talk at all.”
Hook enjoys watching other state competitors perform at the highest level.
“I take bits and pieces that I like from how they presented and how they ‘paint the picture’ and dismiss those I don’t like, and then I incorporate them into my own story,” she said.
“Sarita is an incredibly hard worker – to prepare 29 different selections, all with their own introductions, characters, and infusing them with the meaning of each piece takes a lot of time and hard work,” said Peterson. “She’s got her competitors on the run — other coaches are already asking me when she will be a senior. Luckily, she’ll be speaking for Tracy for another year.”
Noah Tiegs, who qualified for state in Poetry and is eyeing his third medal, said preparing for the state meet is different than going through the regular speech season.
“I think for me it’s always maintaining that thought that I need to give my best performance and making sure to hit all my highs and my lows that I want to. When you get to state level, it isn’t stuff where the judges are like, ‘Oh, you need to change this,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, why don’t you try to say it this way?’ or ‘Why don’t you try doing this instead?’”
Peterson said Tiegs has been looking at different poems to do this year since the end of last year and “finally found the perfect theme and combination of poems a week or so before the first tournament, and he hasn’t looked back since He put in an incredible amount of time memorizing them and ended up fifth at the Marshall Speech Spectacular, the first meet of the season.
Peterson calls Tiegs a leader on this year’s team.
“He works to bring the energy and excitement of the whole team up,” she said. “He tells the team how much he believes in them, and encourages each person to do their best at every meet. He’s gotten so many positive comments from judges over the season – I’m very excited to see what the State tournament brings.”
This will be Tiegs’ fourth appearance at the state meet. The senior said he remembers going to state as a freshman and how nervous he was.
“It was so nerve-wracking,” he recalled. “I was so nervous. The year after that was nerve-wracking, too. Now that I have both of those experiences under my belt, I feel a lot more comfortable. Now I know that it’s just like any other meet in that there are people you know you can beat and they’re are people who, you’re just like, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’”
Tiegs said the state participants have and will continue to spend plenty of time practicing to perfect their speeches — both in front of fellow speech students and at home on their own as well, “just to make sure it stays fresh.”
MaiDee Vang, a junior who who competes in Drama, said no matter her placings, there is always room for improvement.
“I know that I can always improve on some points,” she said.
Peterson said Vang’s strengths are in her eyes and her motions — and emotions.
“Every week, judges comment on MaiDee’s use of her expressive eyes and gestures that make her speech come alive,” said Peterson. “Last week at sections, she got the comment from a judge that she completely ‘nailed it.’ MaiDee is a very coachable student, and works to take in every comment to make her speech the very best that it can be. The emotion that she gives in her speech this year has brought tears to my eyes.”
Peterson said PaNhia Vang doesn’t hold back with her speech.
“I had a judge tell me last week that PaNhia’s ‘crazy eyes’ at the end of her speech made him want to get up and leave the room,” she said. “She mixes together just the right amount of charm and crazy that has everyone stunned by the twist at the end of her speech. Even with her participation in the dance team at the beginning of the speech season, she has made practicing a priority and is a natural at drama.”
Peterson said Johnston takes her time selecting just the right poetry program each year.
“Her program weaves together 10 poems in just the right order, and she seems to have the judges under her spell,” Peterson said. “We’ve spent time talking through the emotions and gestures that would best fit for each poem, and of course, she had the extra challenge of traveling out of the country to Spain in the week before sub-sections.”
Class AA (April 21) and A (April 22) will follow the same schedule:
9:45 a.m. Draws for Round 1
10:15 a.m. Round 1 for All Events
11:15 a.m. Draws for Round 2
11:45 a.m. Round 2 for All Events
12:45 p.m. Draws for Round 3
1:15 p.m. Round 3 for All Events
3:00 p.m. Draws for Final Round
3:30 p.m. Championship Round for All Events
5:30 p.m. Awards Ceremony