Steamboat Springs Jenni Stanford had 30 minutes to write a speech about Argentina's new president, Eduardo Duhaldo, at last Saturday's state speech tournament.
With the help of a thick box of files that held articles on almost every major international current event, the Steamboat Springs High School senior wrote a seven-minute speech that placed her as the fourth best international extemporaneous speaker in Colorado.
Stanford's speech on Duhaldo and his leadership in the economically troubled country was her fifth and final one in the two-day tournament at Castle Rock. In her third year at the state tournament, Stanford broke into the final round and stood in first place before entering the deciding competition.
"I was really excited," Stanford said. "My original goal was to win and get first. I didn't do as well in the final round and that put me down in fourth."
After five months of reading and clipping articles out of newspapers and magazines, Stanford made it through the first four rounds of competition, giving almost perfect speeches on Osama bin Laden and the "Axis of Evil."
"It was one of my best tournaments," Stanford said. "The first few speeches I was really happy with. In extemporaneous speaking, you have to be flawless and I really think some of my speeches were close to that."
Those speeches put her in first place coming into the final round Saturday afternoon. But Stanford said nerves during her last speech on Duhaldo, coupled with some stumbling, bumped her into fourth place.
Stanford was the highest finisher of the four Steamboat students who placed in the state speech tournament. Coach Shauna Lamansky said having four students in Saturday's semifinal round of competition is the best Steamboat has done in years. Steamboat qualified 12 students to go to the state tournament.
"We haven't had four people make it to Saturday (for the semifinal round) in years," Lamansky said. "With placers and finishers, this is the best year out of the last 10 or 12."
Seniors Julie Lewis and Jesse Marshall, who joined the speech team together in their sophomore year, ended their high school state competition together in the semifinal round of the tournament.
After missing the semifinal rounds for two years, Lewis advanced to Saturday's semifinal round and finished the competition in seventh, one place shy of making the cutoff for the final round.
"Last year and the year before, it has kind of been a joke that I would go shopping or be reading (on the second day), because I would never make it to Saturday," Lewis said. "So, I was really excited when I made it to Saturday (this year)."
In Marshall's first trip to state, she placed 10th after giving a speech on how U.S. foreign aid could be more effective. Working with Lewis for three years, Marshall said the two have collected thousands of articles to prepare for speech competitions.
"We've been through all this together and have done well together," Marshall said. "So, it was nice to do well in the semifinals."
Loren Cogswell finished 10th in drama as he acted a scene from "A Man in the Glass Booth."
In two weeks, a handful of Steamboat students will compete in Greeley in the regional National Forensic League qualifying event. The top two finishers in each event will advance to the national tournament in North Carolina in June.