The cancellation of spring school activities due to COVID-19 brought an end to the speech careers of 16 seniors at Perham High School.

The team's last speech competition was March 7; Perham was to host an invitational March 14, coach Kasey Wacker told the Focus in a phone interview.

“They thought that they would still get a chance to compete,” Wacker said. "They didn't feel like their season was over.”

The speech team met briefly the Friday before their canceled invitational to talk about how the season might look if they came back and to give the seniors some sense of closure about their last season, Wacker said.

“Luckily we have a very mature group of students who took the moment with grace and understood that the health of the community was more important than their speech career,” Wacker said.

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Perham's speech team, which is a Class A team, had expected to take first in its section and had plans to go on to nationals for the first time this year. The team had hopes that all 16 seniors would have advanced to nationals, Wacker said.

But because of precautions against coronavirus, the speech team -- like so many other high school sports and activities -- did not get to finish its season, which was set to end April 17.

“They are a resilient and strong group that will prove to do really wonderful things,” Wacker said. "I know that speech means a lot to them, they gave a lot to this organization and to the team -- more than they probably will ever know."

Speech seniors speak

The Perham speech team seniors each shared one thing that they had learned, in a Google Doc created by Kasey Wacker. Here's what the teammates told her:

  • Ethan Siira: “Expressing myself in my true form of humor.”
  • Titus Mycke: “Patience … lots of it.”

  • Katherine Ternus: “Everyone’s voice matters.”

  • Megan Pettow: “Even though it may seem that the odds are stacked against you, they aren’t. You are where you are for a reason. So do what you were meant to do and do it your fullest.”

  • Dannika George: “It’s so much easier to just be yourself than to actually care what others think and say about you.”

  • Jack Anderson: “Time, patience and hard work are the only things guaranteed to bring success.”

  • Kaylee Baumgart: “What you say matters. You have a message to share it. Even if one person is impacted from what you have to say, say it.”

  • Paige Rourke: “With the right words you can do anything you put your mind too.”

  • Andrew Jacobson: “Speech has taught me everything from leadership to friendship.”

  • Lizzie Sazama: “Life isn’t always about winning medals or competitions. It’s about memories you make along the way and the people you share those memories with that matters in the end.”

  • Grace Kalina: “I’m more capable than I give myself credit for.”

  • Olivia McNair: “If you pretend you know what you’re talking about people will probably believe you.”

  • Coltan Myers: “It’s not weird to talk to walls.”

  • Brooke Germain: “A lot of patience.”

  • Dakota Perry: “How to put myself out there more.”

  • Saile Guajardo: “Emotions are high.”