Steamboat Springs The four students seated inside Marty Lamansky's Steamboat Springs High School classroom were a jumbled mix of nerves and excitement Thursday .
One day away from a trip to Atlanta to compete in the nation's biggest speech competition, Amanda Toy, Beth Ann Ludwig, Kelsey Patterson and Julia Patterson anxiously discussed competition outfits, free-time activities and Georgia weather.
The four teammates will compete against nearly 2,500 students from around the nation in the weeklong National Forensics League National Tournament and Congress competition that begins Monday on the campus of Georgia State University.
"I'm really excited," Julia Patterson said. Patterson, who will compete in the Congress event, and Ludwig, who will compete in humorous interpretation, graduated two weeks ago.
Qualifying for the national competition is something Ludwig attempted all four years of high school.
"It's about time," she said. "I've been waiting four years for this."
Ludwig and her teammates will have to dust off the cobwebs that come from multiple weeks without competing.
"It has been awhile since we competed, so I'm excited to just be in my element again and go get them," Ludwig said.
The four competitors, along with speech team coaches Lamansky and his wife, Shauna, depart from Denver International Airport today.
The group will relax and sightsee Saturday before digging their heels in for competition, which begins Monday and runs through Friday.
In the absence of recent speech competitions, the team has spent long hours preparing for individual events by researching, studying and writing articles relevant to each team member's particular event.
After a month preparing, they're ready to compete, Kelsey Patterson said.
"The competition in Congress is fun, but the preparation is evil," she said.
Kelsey Patterson and Toy are rising juniors who are excited to take the experience they will gain next week and apply it to their next two years of speech competition, they said.
The national tournament will keep the Lamanskys busy, too.
Marty Lamansky will serve as a tournament official while Shauna Lamansky will judge some of the events.
The chaotic schedule of events will leave the team little time for socializing. Evening dinners and coaching sessions likely will be the only time the team gets to spend together.
Local organizations, businesses and individuals donated $3,600 to help fund the trip.