Steamboat Springs junior Jenny Castner distinguished herself in April by qualifying for a national speech tournament, meaning she is in the top 5 percent of all competitive speech students in the country. In June, she took her accomplishment one step further by placing in the top six of one of the 15 events offered at the tournament.
"It was a fantastic performance by Jenny" coach Shauna Lamansky said. "The only other time we have placed someone at the national tournament ,they were a senior and Jenny was a junior. It really gives a lot of promise for next year."
Some 2,400 students from around the country, Guam, and Saipan competed for titles at the National Forensic League National Speech Tournament at Portland State University in Oregon. Students qualified for the event by finishing in the top two places at their district tournaments.
Castner qualified for the tournament in original oratory, in which students research, write, and memorize their own speech on any subject they desire. The speech is generally from nine to 10 minutes long. Castner's speech was on the topic of "Personality Engineering" or the power of positive thinking. At the national tournament, students start off by competing in six preliminary rounds of one of the 10 main events they qualified to compete in at nationals. After those six rounds, the 200-plus entries in each event are paired down to the top 60. Unfortunately for Castner, she did not make that cut but was allowed her to compete in what is termed a "supplementary" event.
At the tournament there are four supplementary events and students can choose to compete in up to two of these if they have been eliminated from competition in their other event. Castner chose to compete in expository speaking, in which students give an informative speech on any topic they choose. Castner's topic for this event was "The best part of waking up" which was a speech telling you everything you always wanted to know about coffee. The competition started with 150 speakers. The students went through seven preliminary rounds of competition until the top six students were determined to speak in the final round.
Castner was one of those six.
Scores were counted from all preliminary rounds, the three semifinal judges, and the five final round judges to determine final rankings. In the end Castner finished sixth in the event.
"As far as I know, we are now the only school on the Western Slope to have multiple finalists at this level of competition," coach Marty Lamansky said. "It really demonstrates the quality of our students and our community. When you consider that of the 2,400 students attending the tournament only 138 can say they placed in the top six in any event, it really shows how special this achievement was."