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Six area students receive medals at state speech

Luverne's Spencer Schacht finishes sixth season with first state medal
Spencer has a knack to take the whole story down to a six-minute timeframe and still be able to tell the whole story. That makes him an excellent storyteller. --Caroline Thorson, Luverne speech coach

High school speech is the competitive public speaking activity offered through the Minnesota High School League (MHSL).

There are 13 speech categories with each falling into a genre of informing, influencing or entertaining audiences.

Luverne High School senior Spencer Schacht has been a speech team participant for the past six years and is a three-time state speech qualifier in storytelling, one of the more challenging events.

“You try to stay as true as you can (to the story) yet interpret it,” he said. “You add a personal story or a life lesson.”

Schacht’s own life lesson is woven into the development of his public speaking abilities: Never give up.

The phrase was never more true after Schacht’s very first competitive round as a seventh-grader. Then coach Jerry Benson sat Schacht down next to Round Lake-Brewster Senior Breanna Spartz with the instructions, “Teach him everything he needs to know.”

Spartz’s advice: Just watch.

“He was very timid and shy,” she said, “as is very common for a seventh-grader, but the poise and disposition he displays with his public speaking is spot on.”

At first, Schacht didn’t heed Spartz’s advice and entered his first competition with the idea of performing his storytelling selection as a pro.

“I went 5-5-5 (last place in the three rounds) that first meet,” Schacht said. “I finished my stories in two minutes.”

Storytelling participants have six minutes to convince judges that their spin on the story is the best. Spartz’s performance style five years ago became Schacht’s inspiration.

“She did character voices, barked like a dog, climbed the walls and took the whole six minutes,” he remembered. “I wanted to be like that.”

Schacht did improve, according to Spartz, who occasionally served as a judge at area speech contests.

“Over the past years he has developed into a spectacular public speaker and learned how to have the audiences eating out of the palm of his hand,” she said.

Schacht began preparing for his final speech season during Christmas vacation when he read the 15 “Favorite Folktales from Around the World.” He then wrote introductions to each story into a notebook and began working on his own story interpretations.

Working with first-year coach Caroline Thorson, Schacht whittled his notes into two pages for each story, which, he said, becomes a six-minute speech when performed without notes. During tournaments, including at the state level, participants randomly draw which story they perform. During the meet, each participant performs four stories in front of the judges.

“Spencer has a knack to take the whole story down to a six-minute timeframe and still be able to tell the whole story,” Thorson said. “That makes him an excellent storyteller.”

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