Holly Lorincz, head speech and debate coach at Neah-Kah-Nie High School, has never felt better. Her team brought home the Oregon School Activities Association State Speech Championship 1A/2A/3A title.

Ten N-K-N students, coach Lorincz and assistant coach Laurie Allen and a chaperone spent a long, highly-competitive weekend at Linfield College, but were rewarded with a return bus trip weighed down by individual medals and a first-place Sweepstakes trophy.

"To go out with such a finale my senior year put everything in perspective - our entire team's accomplishments far exceeds our greatest expectations," said NKN senior Genna Hall, the 2004 State Poetry Champion. "I am still recovering from my excitement; I can still hardly believe it."

Hall was a champion once before, taking state in Poetry in 2002. This year, she won two events at the district level, leading her to place fourth in Dramatic Interpretation, a script based on the play "Talk Radio," and first in Poetry Reading doing a collection on "persistence." Hall is co-president of the NKN Speech Team.

NKN junior Jennifer Gibson-Boles competed at the state level for the second time and found herself leaving with a fourth-place trophy in Poetry. Her collection of pieces revolved around music drawing humans together, and included a poem she wrote.

"When I found out I made it to the final round, I was awestruck," she said. "I didn't know how to take it; it took me a while to get over the shock. The competition was overwhelming, a lot of good kids."

Eight NKN students went on to the semi-final, all finishing in the top 12 in their event: senior Kirsten Aagesen made it to state in two events, an Oratory (sixth place) based on "legalizing prostitution" and a (11th place) Radio Commentary focusing on "cigarette packaging," moving onto semi-finals in both events. Senior Keara Gann placed in Oratory (11th place), competing with her original script on "too-tired parents." Senior Lea Daniels went to semis in Expository (ninth place), an informational piece with interactive visual aids regarding the "history of divorce."

The only freshman there, Katie Gregg, also made it to semis with her Prose piece (12th place), interpreting a funny short story by Patrick McManus.

"I'm going to miss the team, Mrs. Lorincz and Mrs. Allen, and ... well, maybe not the 4 a.m. buzzing of my alarm clock on Saturdays," said Gann, a co-president of the NCH Speech Team and a senior.

All the state competitors contributed toward the First Place Sweepstakes Trophy, even if they didn't break into the semi-final rounds.

Sophomore Jason Werner competed at state with an original, funny After Dinner Speech on basketball rules; sophomore Shannon Henderson went to state in Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which the speakers are given a topic regarding political current events and then have a half hour to prepare. Juniors Randy Sheldon and Jon Troyer are the first NKN Public Debate team to break out of the highly competitive debate district one; they made it through four rounds at the state level.

"I can't even put into words my excitement regarding all the accomplishments of NKN's Speech Team this year," Henderson said. "We have come a long way and I feel like we have worked hard and we deserve this trophy. When our school name was first announced at the State Award Assembly, it was amidst jumping up and down, crying, and frantic calls to family. I'm still in shock over my achievement, a rookie speaker and the first speaker from NKN to make it to state in extemp. The tournament ended Saturday and I'm still smiling today."

Lorincz, Allen and chaperone/judge Lisa Sheldon were the three adults shepherding the students from the hotel to the tournament on April 23-25. The competition was open, meaning all sizes of Oregon schools (4A/3A/2A/1A) competed against each other.

The students had to debate four times on Thursday, in front of two judges each time. The individual events began on Friday, with each competitor giving their speech twice in front of a different pair of judges each time.

OSAA hosted an assembly Friday night, at which time the semi-finalists were announced. Semis went off Saturday morning, and finals were held early in the afternoon.

By 4 p.m., the competitors and coaches were back together for a final assembly to discover the winners.

The only time a division was made between school sizes was for the Sweepstakes trophy. Ashland High School won the Sweepstakes for 4A schools, while Neah-Kah-Nie won the championship for the 1A/2A/3A schools. More than 425 students from 61 schools competed.

"The community and the school support has been overwhelming all year," Lorincz said. "We want to thank all the people who have believed in us."

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