Medford High School’s speech team sent a record of 14 students to sections Friday, but before departing for the competition in St. Peter, members of the squad spoke to their classmates in a morning assembly, explaining speech categories and even performing part of their routines.

Senior co-captain Taylor Theisen executed a piece of her dramatic interpretation, Peter Morris’ “The Age of Consent,” about a “physically and emotionally abusive psychotic stage mom,” she said. This is the second straight year she’s portrayed an unbalanced women.

“Last year, I stole a baby,” she said.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering her twisted subject matter this year and in 2017, Theisen actually was in the humor category her first two years as a member of the speech team before transitioning to drama last season, she said.

Also performing a section of his piece was Anthony Manderfeld, who earned a section invite with his humorous interpretation, Herb Duncan’s “008,” which is set after James Bond is killed, and MI6 is essentially holding tryouts for his replacement, he said. The main character wants to be the new Bond, and his first mission is to foil yet another megalomaniac hell-bent on world destruction.

The selection was suggested to him because “I can do lots of voices,” a skill pivotal for “008,” as he must perform 11 different characters, giving each their own posture and voice, Manderfeld said. Crucial to success is “keeping my voice up,” so “if you get sick at all, it really gets to you,” and he drinks an entire jug of water each round when competing.

Junior Brandon Sisler qualified for the section meet in the discussion category, and this year’s topic was “movement of people,” which includes everything from immigration, to adolescents migrating from college, to retirees living out golden years in the Sun Belt, Sisler said. Each round, groups are given an issue related to the overarching topic, and they then must complete their task.

“It sounds boring, but it gets pretty intense,” said Sisler, a co-captain. “It can be hard to keep your cool, because sometimes you just want to pound the table when everyone is against your idea.”

Senior Kayla McGivney, who reached sections in discussion last year and is a co-captain, much preferred the 2017 topic of security, which encompassed social media and privacy concerns, to 2018’s, because “I’m not a fan of politics, but it’s hard to not get political in this era” with movement of people as the prompt, she said. The discussion category prizes facts and research, not personal opinion.

McGivney, now in her third year of speech, joined because the team’s advisor, Kim Goblirsch, “wouldn’t leave me alone,” she said with laughter. It’s proved a felicitous decision, however.

“I’m a new person,” she said. “I’m not as shy as I was before, which is very helpful, because I work in customer service.”

Since becoming more active at school, she’s comfortable voicing her opinions, she said with a sly laugh and a nod toward Manderfeld, Sisler and Theisen. “They all know that.”

Goblirsch believes a modification in style of speech practice this season may account for Medford setting a new record for section participants. In addition to the Sisler, Manderfeld, and Theisen, Jason Domstrand qualified for Friday’s section competition in creative expression.

Kaylin Hanson joined Sisler in the discussion arena. Jackson Hemann made it for dramatic interpretation like Theisen. Rachel Ivance and Billy Chester made it for their duo interpretation. Emma Corbin and Kelsey Warlock got on the dance floor for extemporaneous speaking. Sophie Proehl and Andria Archibald got invited to the party for great speeches. Storytelling was Rian Cloutier’s ticket and Mackenzie Paulson qualified with poetry reading.

No matter how much success one has enjoyed throughout the season, none of that carries over into sections, so “this is when it really counts,” Manderfeld said. The top three scorers in each category earn invites to state. Medford has sent three students to state competition in the past decade.

Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.

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