Weather Forecast


A stellar state performance

The Yellowjacket Speech Team can add another winning season to its record after a fine performance at the state tournament last weekend.

All 11 of the team’s competing members placed within the top 25 of all students in their division. Five team members ranked in the top 10, with three of those making it to the finals, and one coming out a state champion.

“I am super proud of every member on the team,” said coach Sandra Wieser-Matthews in an email to the Focus. “At state, all the competitors did their best… The team has met each benchmark that the coaches set for them. They struggled and worked and peaked at the exact right time.”

The team competed in the Class A competition held at Blaine High School on April 20. The Class AA competition was held the day before. In all, the state tournament represented 156 high school teams, including 90 in Class A and 66 in Class AA.

In addition to the 11 state qualifiers from Perham, another 35 Yellowjackets traveled to Blaine to support their teammates.

The event marked the culmination of a long and sometimes challenging, yet fun and memorable speech season.

Wieser-Matthews, who coaches with Tricia Irvine and Mary Karkela, said the team started researching in November, was competing by January and then continued to compete through April.

Meanwhile, “many of the competitors take college classes and other tough classes, work a job, are involved in their community, and participate in many other activities at school, and for them to be committed to speech for that long is amazing,” she said. “It takes a great deal of perseverance and dedication to stay in speech.”

Rory Risk and Chris Knutson, fourth in State Class A Duo.

Adding to the challenge is the nature of speech itself, which Wieser-Matthews describes as, “a subjective beast.”

“No matter what the coach and competitor do to create an outstanding performance, if one judge doesn’t like you, they can keep you out of the finals,” she said. “It is tough for competitors to get used to the gamble, as they put everything they have out there, and then hope the judge connects.”

The kids are coached to connect with the judges and everyone in the audience. And sometimes, it all works, as was the case with this year’s State Champion from Perham, Brian Howey. Howey took home the gold in creative expression – the same category he placed third in at state last year.

In addition to the coaches, the speech team is assisted by volunteers Heather Newville, Tom Tomporowski, Kasey Wacker and Perham speech graduates who return during the season to help out.

State Champions in Speech Class A, including Perham’s Brian Howey.

State Results:

-Mark Huebsch, Informative, 24th

-Kanyon Edval, Extemp. Speaking, 19th

-Kris Hanson, Discussion, 17th

-Julia Pearson, Great Speeches, 16th

-Rachel Newville, Informative, 15th

-Ali Christenson, Poetry, 12th

-Rachel Nelson, Drama, 10th

-Leah Wuebben, Prose, 9th

-Rory Risk and Chris Knutson,

Dramatic Duo, Finals, 4th

-Brian Howey, Creative Expression, Finals, State Champion

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

(218) 259-7034