The LaRue County High School and LaRue County Middle School Speech Teams competed at the Kentucky High School Speech League State Speech Championships this past week at the University of Kentucky and returned home with top individual honors in both divisions.
They placed fourth overall in the state in senior division and 10th overall in the junior division. The team also brought home one individual state championship on each level: Brian Anderson is the 2013 state champion in senior extemporaneous speaking and Breea Kirkpatrick is the 2013 state champion in junior poetry interpretation.
The senior team had five finalists and eight semifinalists in the 12 speech events. The middle school team had one finalist and five semifinalists in the 11 events offered on that level.
Anderson, a sophomore, also placed second in poetry and fourth in impromptu; senior Zachary Thurman placed fifth in storytelling; and junior Elijah Thomas placed third in humorous interp.
Semifinalists included senior Amarah Reed in prose; senior Christian Pope in declamation; sophomore Alison Schurfeld in declamation, oratory and duo interp with Thomas; sophomore Maddie Lee in oratory and storytelling; and junior Curtis Milby in poetry.
On the middle school level Kirkpatrick advanced to the semis in prose. Other semifinalists included seventh-grader Alexia Trumbo in declamation; seventh-grader Elena Cecil in Poetry; seventh-grader Sophie Akin in Storytelling; and eighth-grader Trevor Mather in Extemp.
Each team who participates at the state level can only bring three students to the state in each event. Of the 32 entries LCHS took to the tournament, 13 advanced into elimination rounds. The middle school took a total of 14 entries advancing five to elimination rounds.
“I was not surprised to see so many advance on both levels. Our team is young, but so full of talent,” said head coach Katy Cecil. “I was thrilled to bring home state championships on both levels. The future of our program is so bright.”
On the middle school level, it has been years since the team was big enough to compete in the open division, and they have never won a sweepstakes trophy.
New head coach Darrell Stillwell said, “I am so excited to be a part of this program. At first I was a little unsure – why in the world would Katy Cecil ask me to be a speech coach, I don’t know anything about this activity, but I have learned so much this year, and to have a state champion my very first year as a coach – I just don’t have words. I mean I had a lot of help from Katy and from the kids on the high school team, particularly Maddie Lee, but still when Breea won they announced my name as her coach, and that was awesome. I am excited about helping to continue to build this program and train great kids on to compete on the high school team.”
This marks the first state championship in extemp since the early 2000s.
“I brought Bill Thompson on the coaching staff two years ago and he and Eric Cecil (the debate coach) started to cultivate our students’ interest in these speaking events,” said Katy Cecil. “They have really started to build a powerhouse with Brian, and we have a couple of other students coming up who are showing great promise. I really have to give Bill and Eric all of the credit on this championship. Bill has been working with students for 20 years and this is his first Extemp State Championship – I think he was happier than Brian.”
This is the third year in a row the team has been big enough to compete in the open division at state.
“When you talk speech in Kentucky it used to be all about Boone, Rowan and Danville – now LaRue County is always listed with those schools,” said Thompson. “The other schools in the state recognize that the program the Blairs and Cecils have built here is going to be one of the ‘big dogs’ in the state from now on. I am thrilled to be a part of it, and I am excited to see what Brian will continue to accomplish. I have never had a student who works as hard, and to win this event at state as a sophomore is almost unheard of. You will be seeing a lot more about him in the years to come.”