Speaking for State

The EHS speech team goes to the state tournament in Lincoln.


Photo courtesy of Jaimie Mosby

Four seniors at the state speech competition. (Left to right, Kayli Pham, Hailey Cheek, Hailey Sant, Ava DeLaGarza)

Will Ford, Reporter

On Thursday, March 17th, Elkhorn High’s speech team went to the state tournament held in Lincoln. They had previously competed at districts on Tuesday, March 9th. Five seniors qualified for the state tournament by breaking into the final round at districts and taking third place or higher, a difficult task already, but only four attended. 

The team had an enormous amount of confidence and excitement going into state, having previously won the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament for the first time in school history. Many members of the team became champions of their events in this intense tournament.

“We were really excited and had a lot of good energy and encouragement from the entire team,” senior Kayli Pham said. 

“I feel like a lot of people were super nervous because there was competition from schools people had never seen before, where at conference you can kind of predict who’s going and what schools are there,” senior Hailey Cheek said. 

“It’s funny because the day before state was Saint Patrick’s day, so my theme for our trip down there was ‘get the gold.’ They all would have been tickled to end up in finals, but we know that at state, everyone is so talented, and because it’s a subjective activity, there ends up being quite a bit of heartbreak,” speech coach Jaimie Mosby said. 

The tournament was by far the most intense the team had attended that year. Many competitors who did well in one round didn’t do as well in another because of how insanely tight the competition was. There were a lot of split tickets, with 2-5 or 5-2 ranks (2 rounds, ranked out of 6) being quite common. 

Yet, this didn’t stop the Elkhorn High speech team from bringing home some fantastic accolades. Pham managed to become the state champion of informative speaking, an event where the speaker informs the judge on a fascinating subject for eight minutes. It was the first speech state championship Elkhorn has taken since 1994. 

It was also an all-around great experience for everyone involved. It was only the fourth in-person tournament the team had been to all season, as most of them were held online. 

“That just made it all the more exciting, to be in an auditorium full of people and getting to see those reactions, hearing Kayli’s name get called for first place, I was crying, the coach next to me was crying,” Mosby said. 

“Watching some of those last performances of those pieces, there were moments that they did it to the absolute best of their ability. Even though we didn’t get the results we had hoped for, there were still some incredible performances,” Mosby said.

These performances at state are the results of an entire season of hard work and improvement. The group went from not having scripts memorized, not having topics picked as late as December, and missing practices due to all the snow days to becoming a powerhouse team capable of competing with the best in the district. For the first time, the team had someone break into the final round and earn a medal at every tournament they attended. Never leaving empty-handed proved to be a great morale booster for the team as the season dragged on.

The team had a pretty unfinished season last year, as last year’s districts were canceled due to COVID 19. For a long time, they were worried that this season would end in a similar fashion. They were “cautiously optimistic” about districts this year, but they felt hesitant to fully invest in their performances until mid-January when the NSAA declared that district tournaments would be in-person. Until then, they didn’t know whether they would be able to reap the rewards of their hard work. 

The team has high hopes going forward. While the current team consists of about 50% seniors and will thus be decimated by graduation, they still have a variety of great underclassmen. The expected team captain for next year is Brady Larry, a skilled junior who took second place at EMC in persuasive speaking, contributing to Elkhorn’s win that day. They also have a variety of promising freshmen and sophomores, namely Daphne Crews, Logan Kiekhafer, Mya Larsen, Madelyn Rose, Michaela Todd, Gavin Visser, and Christopher Wickham.

“We have some strong speakers who are really hard workers,” Pham said. 

They had qualified five seniors for state.

  • Ava DeLaGarza in serious prose
  • Hailey Sant in humorous prose 
  • Hailey Cheek in entertainment  
  • Kayli Pham in informative
  • Will Ford in extemporaneous (unable to attend)

Other seniors who helped Elkhorn’s speech team achieve such a great season (and broke finals at Districts with a fantastic duet act) are Amy Jacob and Elijah Sutton.

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