Students soar in speech competition

July 11, 2017 GMT

Writing and memorizing a seven-minute speech about international policy in 30 minutes with sources may seem impossible to some, but Andrew Phares really loves it.

So much so, he’s moved through the ranks during his high school speech career and finished 44th out of 231 at the National Speech and Debate competition in Birmingham, Alabama, last month.

Phares was joined by two other teammates at the competition. Drake Berry competed in Domestic Extemporaneous, which deals with topics that primarily have to do with issues in the United States. Berry, an incoming junior, finished 130 out of 232 competitors.

Jake French, an incoming senior, finished in 107th place out of 246 in the Humorous Interpretation category. French performed “The Book of Mormon,” a comedy written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, best known for being the creators of South Park.

The team’s coach, David Cooper, is proud of how the boys ranked.

“I am overwhelmed with how they did at nationals,” said Cooper. “The competition level is extremely tough. Andrew broke into the top 60 competitors in the nation demonstrating that we can compete on the national level.”

This year was Phares third trip to Nationals. He began competing in speech as a sophomore and earned a spot on the region’s national team as an alternate. One of the other qualifiers had to drop out of the competition, which meant Phares had the chance to compete in Dallas. In 2016, as a junior, he qualified for nationals in Salt Lake City.

“Out of the three, this was probably my favorite trip … even before I broke into the top 60,” Phares said.

He said that initially, he didn’t feel that being there in the years before gave him an advantage. He’d heard many of the top competitors had competed all four years.

“However, through talk­ing to other competitors from other districts, I found out just how many people were coming to Nationals for the first time, and I began to feel that my experience was an advantage,” Phares said.

He said this is the first year he’s ever broken into the events top 60.

Phares said that the only thing he wish he’d done differently when it came to speech was to join sooner and he encourages others to give it a shot.

Phares said for him, speech was “life changing.”

“I’m a much more confident person, both in everyday life and in being able to convey my ideas and thoughts to the world,” Phares said.

It was also a way to meet new people, both in his school and from across the country.

Although Phares graduated in May, his speech career isn’t over. This fall, he’ll head to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he’ll compete in Extemporaneous speaking and Informative speaking. He’ll be working toward a degree in electrical engineering and will be part of the Raikes honor program, where he’ll minor in computer science and business.

As far as the current members of the NPHS speech and debate team, “we started working on the 2017-18 season a few weeks ago and hope for more success,” Cooper said.