Two advance from state speech contest; six will go to nationals for speech and debate after qualifying

by Jim Boyle


Elk River High School’s speech team sent nine students to state earlier this month. It wasn’t the program’s best showing, but two students advanced to the national speech tournament and another six are headed to speech and debate national competitions.

Senior Andrew Christopherson and freshman Abby Huselid both made it to the final round to earn entry into the national speech competition. Christopherson placed eighth in informative speaking and Huselid placed eighth in poetry.

Three other Elk River students placed in the top 10 in the state: Emma McCauley finished ninth in prose, Alyson Miskowic finished ninth in storytelling, and Priestley Ayumba finished 10th in oratory.

The Elks speech program will also send six students to the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament in June in Louisville, Kentucky. That tournament is separate from the MSHSL system and requires students to compete in a local district tournament to qualify.

“This is the first in-person nationals since 2019, so our students are really excited to get back out there,” speech adviser Allison Harmer said. “Just making the national tournament puts you in the top 3% of speakers in the nation, so this is a huge accomplishment.”

The six students advancing to national speech and debate competitions include: Christopherson, Kaitlin Olson and Izzy Silvola in congressional debate; Alyson Miskowic, informative; Priestley Ayumba, original oratory; and Emma Loretz, prose reading.

The Elk River speech team took second place this year at the Section 7AA tournament in Hibbing on April 9.

Nine students advanced to the state tournament, including five section champions, the most of any team in Section 7AA.

“We were a small team this year, so advancing this many students was really a big deal,” Harmer said. “We are still definitely recovering from COVID in terms of team size, but we are really hopeful looking ahead to next year.”

Harmer said this season has been difficult for the Elks.

“The majority of our students have never competed in person at a state tournament before, since last year was all virtual, so it required a lot of growth for our students,” Harmer said. “Many who have had a lot of success, even on the national level, hadn’t had a chance to compete this way before.”

The future looks bright for a program that has a history of making a splash at state and national competitions.

“It’s really exciting, especially, to see some of our freshmen advancing (and even making finals at state),” Harmer said. “It really shows the resiliency and dedication of this team, and it signals so many good things for them in the future.”

Those who advanced to state this year included senior Andrew Christopherson, informative section champion; senior Priestley Ayumba, original oratory section champion; junior Emma McCaulery, prose section champion; Huselid, poetry section champion; senior Alyson Miskowic, storytelling section champion; senior Jaelyn Plantenberg, third place in drama; junior Izzy Silvola, second place in creative expression; sophomore Clara Anderson, second place in extemp. reading; and freshman Helayna Winter, third place in informative.

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