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Gering, Scottsbluff speakers gear up for speech season
December 18, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Kay Grote/Gering Citizen - Gering High School speech members, from left, Gavin Hovseth, Megan Brady, Hayley Grams, Keagan Heilbrun, and John Boyd perform their winning Oral Interpretation of Drama piece last year during the District competition held in Gering. The Gering team, with 23 seniors this year, will make a return run for the state speech title as the 2014-2015 season gets underway.

In early December, area high school speech teams are preparing their material for competition during the winter speech meets. But Gering’s opening invitational was different this year.

“We’re doing something we’ve never done before,” said Gering speech coach Tyler Thompson. “We only had about 30 kids from other schools register for the tournament. So instead of hosting an entire meet, we’re having what we call a novice clinic.”

The clinic was held Saturday, Dec. 13. Different breakout sessions, led by different coaches and judges, were scheduled in the morning. In the afternoon, students were given time to work with coaches on the pieces they will perform in competition.

“We found that with state play competition, so many schools that usually participate in speech weren’t ready for the start of the speech season,” Thompson said.

Now in his seventh year as speech coach, Thompson is assisted by Jason DeMaranville and Andy Stobel. Although about 65 kids have signed up, the team usually settles down to about 40-45 members.
In Nebraska, there are two main speech categories: rhetorical events and interpretive events. In rhetorical events, students write their own speeches in the areas of informative, persuasive, extemporaneous and entertainment.

Interpretative events included five categories: humorous prose, serious prose, poetry, duet acting, and oral interpretation of drama. Here, students are performing works by other authors.

Thompson said the 2013 season went well, although the end was a bit disappointing. Gering placed second in districts, but ended up in fifth at the state competition.

“We were runners-up at state the year before, so the kids had high expectations,” he said. “But we still had a good year.”
Gering has 23 seniors on the speech team this year who return with a good deal of experience. Many of them compete in multiple events. One of them is John Boyd, who was a state champion as a sophomore and also a dual medalist as a junior.

“We also have a great group of underclassmen,” Thompson said. “As always, Scottsbluff is good competition for us. They’re a Class A school, so they also compete against the larger schools in Lincoln and Omaha. Their level of competition is always high. And even the smaller schools like Bridgeport and Gordon-Rushville have tremendously talented performers.”

That talented Scottsbluff team has a new speech coach this year – Chad Scheel, who takes over from Kara Acino after spending two years as her assistant. Before coming to Scottsbluff, he was the speech coach at Bridgeport for two years. His assistant is Whitney Gipe. And one of his former speakers, Nik Chizek, has been helping as a volunteer.

The Scottsbluff team will have about 40 members, including returners Morgan Meister, Eli Hutt, Katelyn Thompson, Paige Corr, Alonso Lopez, Nikki Mobley, Abby Tygart and Emily Ostdiek.

This early in his first season as coach, Scheel said it’s too early to tell what kind of aspirations he will have for the team. Although the team is young, he will focus on growth and improvement with every meet.

“If we do that, the medals and accolades will follow,” he said. “We’ve tried to spend more time together as a team. Several of the returners have spent some time planning team activities to help them get to know each other better. They have so much potential and I care about them dearly.”

Thompson said his team has the talent and the desire to win a state speech title.“But beyond championships, I want the kids to become a family and grow as individuals,” he said. “I want them to walk away from a competitive speaking experience better prepared to tackle life after high school. And I want them to make friendships that will last throughout their lives.”
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