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Panthers qualify for national speech tournament
GBHS students who competed Saturday in the State Speech Championship are, back row, from left: Dinah Newman, Milena Carbajal, Xanna Smith, Katria Kindscher and Isaiah Smith. Front row: Thomas Henrickson and Malachi Wasson.
GBSH students who placed 2nd or 3rd Saturday at the State Speech Championship are, from left: Malachi Wasson, Dinah Newman and Isaiah Smith.

The Great Bend High School virtual speech season continued Saturday as seven students competed in the State Speech Championship. The Panthers finished in the top half of the 5A sweepstakes competition.

Leading the GBHS team was junior Isaiah Smith, who placed second in Original Oratory. Malachi Wasson, also a junior, took home third in Humorous Interpretation.  

Dinah Newman, the team’s only senior, was in semi-finals in Original Oratory and finished 12th. Panther head coach Kim Heath noted that Newman’s leadership has been integral to the squad’s success this year.

“Dinah’s forensic accomplishments and work ethic have built a model for the younger students,” Heath said. “She is kindhearted and fun to be around. Her contributions will be greatly missed next year.”

Sophomore Xanna Smith just missed breaking into semi-finals with a 13th place finish in Informative Speaking. Others earning points for GBHS at state were sophomore Katria Kindscher in Poetry; and freshmen Thomas Henrickson in Informative Speaking and Milena Carbajal in Dramatic Interpretation.  

“Placing in the top 2 at state is amazing,” said Isaiah Smith. “I am so excited for nationals this summer and working to finish at the top next year.”

Heath said because of the circumstances this year, the recent state competition was a bit underwhelming compared to a normal year where the participants would all travel together to compete in person. “But the virtual nature didn’t hold the students back,” she said. “They knew that all the competitors there would be top level and that they would need to give stellar performances. The students made the commitment to keep at it and make their messages clear.”

Wasson noted that “placing third at the state tournament made all the work worth it.”

In June, Isaiah Smith, Xanna Smith and Wasson will compete in the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament showcasing high school students from every corner of the United States.