Moorhead High speech team shares secrets to success after capturing 7th consecutive state title
With 34 state championships and 260 team medals, the Spuds took home 17 medals between April 28-29 at the state tournament, marking its fourth most successful state tournament in team history.
MOORHEAD — The secret to the Moorhead High School speech team’s success over the past seven years can be summed up in one word — almost.
“Discipline,” said Leif Carlson, a junior and state champion from last month’s state speech tournament. “Take failures and turn it into fuel. If you don’t final, use that as motivation for yourself."
Senior Chase Schmidt, another state champion, said choosing a secret to their success was difficult. “It’s the energy we have together. We always build each other up,” he said. “It teaches you that you can do hard things."
Greta Homuth's secret is to "trust in yourself and in your teammates. Everything I do, I do better because of speech,” the senior state champion said.
Whatever the secret is, the Moorhead High School speech team used it to claim its seventh consecutive Class 2A state championship last month in Eastview, Minnesota. The squad will now move on to the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in Chanhassen May 12-14.
With a total of 34 state championships and 260 team medals, the Spuds took home 17 medals between April 28-29 at the state tournament, marking its fourth most successful state tournament in team history, according to a press release from Moorhead Area Public Schools.
Rebecca Meyer-Larson, the head speech coach at Moorhead High School, said the team’s success at tournaments isn’t all about chasing trophies.
“It’s been about kids who watch other kids excel and share their voices and it becomes addicting,” said Meyer-Larson, who also duels as an English and theater teacher.
“We don’t always listen to the young people, and I think the world might be in better shape if we just shut up and listen," Meyer-Larson said. A more emphatic, respectful and articulate culture can be created when teaching people to listen to other people's stories, she added.
Many in the speech team meet up after school everyday in a lobby nicknamed the Bourbon Room, practicing for their weekend tournament. It mirrors students who participate in football or track, except nobody ever gets injured from a tackle or sprained ankle, Meyer-Larson said.
They’ve given up other interests like sports and part time jobs for extra money. Many have realized the importance speech offers them, a skill that could put any of them with confidence into a boardroom or a stage.
“And to think I used to ask my mom how to do haircut appointments for me," said senior Tate Horan. "We are definitely bringing this with us, we’ve been given an ability and for many, public speaking is a number one fear and we’re conquering that as highschoolers."
When Horan stood up to reenact his state championship winning speech, his love for the art was contagious. He not only spoke, he acted, as if he were performing before hundreds of viewers.
The speech team works together and builds each other up, said Meyer-Larson, who described how her son Finn Larson was mentored by classmate Amelia Bailly. Larson would wind up taking first place in one competition during the state tournament, Bailly took second.
With a motto like "Champions by choice," the two classmates applauded each other, and "that's a beautiful thing," Meyer-Larson said.
Although members of the speech team can get nervous before a tournament—even forgetting their lines—memorization has become easier with practice, Meyer-Larson said.
When Larson and Schmidt stood up to perform a conversation from the 1999 film “Fight Club,” they took long, slow breaths before they began. Their reenactment resembled a choreographed dance with bodies and with words.
“It’s a fun nervous,” said Schmidt, describing the feeling before a tournament.
“You want to do good, but as a freshman you don’t want to mess up,” said Homuth, who pointed to Meyer-Larson as yet another key to the team's success.
“She is the brains behind the operation. She’s always here, she’s here more than we are,” Homuth said.
The speech team leader reminisced about conducting speech tournaments during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though her students were masked and distanced, they continued to compete online over Zoom even when sporting events were canceled.
“Two years of staring at a screen the entire time," Meyer-Larson said. "They found their voices and figured out how to keep using them."
The opportunity to return to live performances isn't lost on the team, Meyer-Larson said. "They know what it’s like to lose the opportunity for live performances, and they cherish it more than any crew I have ever worked with," she said.
2023 Spud state medalists:
- Leif Carlson (First—Dramatic)
- Tate Horan (First—Humorous)
- Finn Larson (First—Poetry)
- Chase Schmidt (First—Storytelling)
- Amelia Bailly (Second—Poetry)
- Greta Homuth & Olivia Dahlberg (Second in Duo)
- Andrina Rockstad (Second—Great Speeches)
- Karena Christenson (Third—Informative)
- Macy Larson (Third—Great Speeches)
- Hameedah Oladele (Third—Oratory)
- Sergio Guerrero (Fifth—Creative)
- Nona Harrison (Sixth—Storytelling)
- Maya Weiler (Sixth—Dramatic)
- Luc duCharme (Seventh—Prose)
- Sam Schaefer (Seventh—Oratory)
- Evan Froslie (Eighth—Storytelling)
- Elise Halvorson (Eighth—Great Speeches)
In addition, sophomore Halvorson competed concurrently online in the National Speech & Debate Association Last Chance Qualifier Tournament. After six rounds and nearly 200 competitors, Halvorson finished in the top 16 in Oratory and qualified for the 2023 National Speech and Debate Tournament June 11-16 in Phoenix.
Additional Moorhead speech team accomplishments include:
- 19 state champions since 2016
- Earning at least one gold medal in each of the last 10 state tournaments.
- Collecting 10 or more medals in each of the last 11 state tournaments.
- Winning 106 total medals since the seven-year streak began in 2016 and amassing 260 total medals in the team's history.