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FHS Speech Team is doing well in first year in the National Forensics League

FHS freshmen Sydney Dumonceaux, Zelda Wear and Madison Rude say they're a lot more confident speaking in front of groups after joining the speech team. More than 50 students are on the team this year.

For a lot of people, getting up in front of a group of other people and speaking is pretty scary.

And for some people, yelling at a locker is just a little nutty, too, but they're okay with that.

At least, that's the case for many of the members of the Farmington High School Speech Team. More than one has had to talk to lockers or argue with doors, but they're getting used to it.

Over the past five or six years, the FHS speech program has boomed. With 52 students competing at various tournaments this year, the speech team has become a pretty popular activity.

Coach Lori Constable isn't shy about her affiliation with the team. In fact, she uses her role as an English teacher in the school to identify students who she thinks might excel in the program. That's how she's brought on so many freshmen this year. But it's usually easy to tell which kids are going to be the ones to excel, too.

Speech participants are generally outgoing. They have a sense of independence, which is good since Constable is only able to spend about half an hour with each student each week. They're intellectual, they're open to research. They're expressive. And they're not afraid to put themselves out there.

"These are kids who really like that stimulation, that challenge," she said. "They want to find something different every week. Complacency isn't something we want in a student."

When students join the speech team, Constable and coach Rick Halley try to find the right category for each individual person. There are 13 categories in speech competition. Those categories are further broken down to interpretive and public address methods of delivery.

Farmington has had a speech team and competed in the Minnesota State High School League program for several years. This year, though, the speech team has entered the National Forensics League because of the number of students who have earned enough points in competition.

In fact, with the number of kids who have earned 25 points or better -- which qualifies them for NFL status -- Farmington is eligible to send 12 students to the national qualifier tournament this weekend.

"While Farmington may not end up sending anyone to nationals, it's really good to have them compete with that caliber of students," Constable said.

Most of the ninth grade members are in the Novice division, because this is their first year in the program. As they continue in the program, they'll become Varsity members.

That's what ninth graders Madison Rude, Zelda Wear and Sydney Dumonceaux will likely do, as they all enjoy being a part of the team. Rude and Wear present original oratory, while Dumonceaux works with a male partner in dramatic duo.

The girls like that Constable urges them to find their own creative muse and go with it. Through her guidance, they can tell they're speaking more as themselves than someone with a stiff, prepared speech.

But they like the skills they're learning more.

"Getting up in front of people, I used to get all red," Dumonceaux said. "But not anymore. It's fun."

Rude agrees.

"Before, I was okay at public speaking, but after you compete a couple of times, you have way more confidence in yourself and your abilities," Rude said.

The girls also like that they've gotten to know some of the upperclassmen at FHS, as well as students from other schools.

But maybe the worst part? The build-up to their own event. Rude starts each tournament day okay. She finds out what room she's competing in, what time she's competing at, "and then the nerves set in," she said.

They can practice in the hallways, but they cannot practice in the rooms where they are competing, so they've all gotten used to talking to inanimate objects.

"But I do feel crazy when I start talking to a wall," Wear said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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