It was a historic season for Owatonna High School's speech team. Eight students qualified for the Minnesota State High School League state speech meet. Four OHS students placed at the Class AA meet on Friday, April 22 at Eastview High School in Apple Valley.

Senior Fardouza Farah closed out her career with a fourth-place finish in Discussion. Seniors Julia Christenson and Jackson Hemann captured seventh in Duo Interpretation. Junior Makenna Hovey came in eighth in Creative Expression.

Owatonna's other qualifiers were senior Dakota Kath and junior Hailey Kjersten in Original Oratory, junior Coda Richardson for Extemporaneous Speaking, and junior LiLeigh Nguyen for Storytelling.

Huskies coach Marcia Anderson said it may have been a record-setting total to send to state meet, "I don't know if it's ever happened, at least not since I've been in Owatonna...They're a great group of people. We have some strong seniors and juniors...hard-working and just very creative."

Fardouza, who placed seventh in Discussion in 2021, said there's a balancing act necessary to succeed in the category, "I pretty much sit in a group setting. We talk about a prompt that is given to us. And the way that the judging works is whoever is the most leader in the group wins...It's a friendly debate, that's the best way to put it."

Fardouza was awarded a major scholarship recently and now faces a big decision on where to go to college, "I ended up getting accepted into Brown, Columbia, Stanford, Havard, and Yale. And right now I'm considering Harvard and Yale to be my two choices." She plans to pursue Political Science on a pre-law track.

Christenson placed sixth in Humor in 2021. In the Duo Interpretation category, she and Hemann act out a story, but face some restrictions, "The rules are basically you can't touch each or look at each other in the eyes."

Hemann was a state participant in Drama a year ago. This year, he was hoping for a positive experience in a return to in-person competition, "I just hope that we do good and end the season off well. I don't necessarily think we need to final or anything, but just feel good about our performance. I think it would be awesome if we did. No matter how it goes, I'm really proud of how we've done this season."

Hovey enjoys presenting a humorous story, "I really do like getting laughter from the audience. It kind of feeds me and it makes me want to be more funny and hit those punch lines right." Her story was A Day with Dorothy.

Nguyen also competed at state in two other activities this winter, "They were pretty good actually. Mock trial we finished, I think, top half...Knowledge Bowl we got second."

Richardson has to be on his toes with current world happenings, "Overall you focus on current news. Personally, I focus on international, but it could also be domestic. You draw a prompt or question 30 minutes before your round and make a speech that is usually around seven minutes."

Kath's presentation was entitled Change is Conspicuously Necessary, "My speech is about LGBQT+ inclusion in education. I think that there's a lot of change that needs to be made to include LGBQT+ inclusion into education." He conducted many interviews locally to come up with his speech.

Kjersten's original talk was on Misinformation: A Global Conspiracy, "I'm discussing how misinformation has led to impacts in our community and on the global stage as well." She covered how misinformation led to lower vaccination rates and the January 6 insurrection.

Anderson said the main goal going into the state meet was simple, "Honestly, that they have fun. First and foremost they've got to have fun. And if they're having fun, and then they're going to be energized. And if they're energized, then they're going to perform really well."

Blooming Prairie's Bradley Simon took part in the Class A state speech meet on Saturday in the Discussion category.

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