Rocklin High School students turn speech into sport

Claim top honors at state competition
By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Five Rocklin High students transformed the common fear of public speaking into a intellectual art and technical sport during the California High School Speech Association?s state competition April 27 through April 29 in San Francisco. ?If you ever want to learn how to give a speech for business and make it engaging, go see what these high school kids are doing. They will blow you away. Some of them can put the Presidential candidates to shame,? said Speech and Debate coach James Grace. Amanda Wong, Grace Zhong, Kelley Jiang, Prithvi Rajasekaran and Rahul Verma represented Rocklin and the greater Sacramento area in humorous interpretation, expository, original oratory, impromptu and national extemporaneous, respectively. Rajasekaran stands as the only sophomore among four juniors who qualified for the state competition. In her event, she was presented three words, three open-ended questions, or three famous quotes and asked to choose one. She was then given two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech. In Verma?s event, students blindly selected three questions, then chose one after which they were given 30 minutes to write a speech using magazines, such as Time, Newsweek and The Economist. The topic of argument is not revealed beforehand. Participants were given 30 minutes to organize their claims and prepare their arguments. The speech must be delivered without notes. Debates are focused around ?real life? issues and current topics and argued in the presence of three judges. These speeches are nothing like the traditional classroom speeches since each is a small play in which each student must portray all the roles. Zhong competed in Expository Speaking, an event where participants create posters and props to present a viewpoint. Her presentation focused on the relationship between introversion and success. Jiang competed in Original Oratory, an event where competitors write and present their own speeches. Her speech on the teenage brain and its development was delivered in a light-hearted tone. Wong competed in Humorous Interpretation, an event where participants perform written works as one-person plays. She selected ?Junie B. Jones has a Peep in Her Pocket,? a children?s book by Barbara Park. The statewide competition featured more than 100 schools and nationally-recognized speakers. Grace, who has been coaching Rocklin High students since 2005, proudly reported he has had students compete at the state meet every year except two. ?I saw so many great speakers and I feel lucky to have been able to compete with them,? said Wong, who joined Rocklin?s team this year. Jiang considers the state meet rewarding because it gave her a chance to see speech and debate on a new level. She said the statewide tournament gave her the opportunity to learn about the ?James Logan? style of speech. Competitors indicated that peers sometimes ?stonewall? during the meet and don?t laugh at all. Wong liked that competitors did laugh during her event because it made the competition more relaxing and enjoyable. Although the season has ended, the students have already started preparing for next year?s competition. Most will write at least one speech over the summer in anticipation of delivering it on the first day of school. The first tournament is usually held in the middle of September. Participants typically attend seven tournaments before the state qualifier. Each student will speak approximately three times during any one event. Rocklin students are very competitive ? sometimes competing in multiple events. At the Capitol Valley State Qualifiers meet, Jiang, Wong, and Zhong placed second, fourth, and fifth in their events, respectively. Grace is thankful for the support and time of the parents who make the competitions possible. Jiang encourages everyone to give public speaking a shot. ?You never know if you have a secret public speaking gift,? she said.