Submitted photo

Members of the award-winning Elk River High School speech team, including in the front row, left to right: Andrew Christopherson, Regan VanAvery and Lucy Leither.

Back row, left to right: Olivia Kramer, Alyson Miscowic and Sam Peterson. Not pictured are Emma Loretz and Pablo Aleksandrowicz.

ERHS has first finalist, and a top 10 semifinalist as team earns team of excellence distinction

by Jim Boyle


The Elk River High School speech team has made another splash at the National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Olivia Kramer became Elk River’s first finalist in the competition. She finished fifth in the nation in the oratory competitions.

Sam Peterson was a semifinalist, and she finished 10th in the nation in the informative competition.

The team as a whole earned the distinction of being a team of excellence by finishing in the top 20 in the nation.

“I felt just so proud and honored to represent my team at the level I did, because I couldn’t have gotten there without every one of my teammates supporting me along the way as well as (teacher and coach Allision Harmer),” Kramer said.

Members of the nationals team included Kramer, Peterson, Andrew Christopherson, Regan VanAvery, Alyson Miskowic, Lucy Leither, Emma Loretz and Pablo Aleksandrowicz.

The national tournament is part of the National Speech and Debate Association, an honor society for high school speech and debate teams. Those who join that association can compete for a chance to make it to the national tournament. Elk River’s program has been in the NSDA for five years.

“Every year we’ve had a semifinalist (which is top 15 in the nation or better),” said Allison Harmer, the programs adviser. “This year is our first year we had students in the final round!”

Elk River High School was named a Speech School of Excellence, a distinction awarded to teams that place in the Top 20 among teams in the National Speech and Debate Tournament.

This year the event was June 13-19, and it was hosted online due to the pandemic.

Elk River had five qualifiers in main stage speech events, one in main stage debate, and two in supplemental events.

“I think Elk River is so good because we don’t just depend on our coaches for help,” Peterson stated in an email to the Star News. “We have peer coaches that can bring new insights and ideas to pieces that a grown up might not have had.

“Our coaches ... are also always there to support us not just in speech but in other areas as well.”

Kramer joined the team as a nervous 9th grader.

“I was very nervous and scared as a small freshman,” Kramer said.

After meeting all the captains and making friends, she said she quickly found a spot for herself

“It has been very rewarding to have seen the progress. As a team we have all worked so hard and helped each other work so hard. To see that progress play out in the way that it did was absolutely fantastic.”

Peterson is planning on going to Moorhead State for a degree in Archeology. The skills she has learned in speech will be immeasurable, she said.

“Being on the speech team has also taught me that even if I don’t succeed on the first try, there’s always more (chances),” Peterson said.

National Speech and Debate Tournament: Elk River High School speech team finishes in the Top 20 in the nation as a team

National Speech and Debate Tournament results for members of the Elk River High School speech team. (Note: Each category had 300-plus entries.)

Olivia Kramer, finalist, 5th place in Oratory.

Sam Peterson, semifinalist, 10th place in Informative.

Lucy Leither, Top 60 in Oratory.

Regan VanAvery, 102nd in Oratory.

Alyson Miscowic, 102nd in Storytelling and a qualifier in Informative.

Emma Loretz, Top 60 in Prose.

Pablo Aleksandrowicz, qualifier in poetry.

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