High school freshman Ashley Lopez is full of surprises. Senior Kelly Shaw just picked up where she left off last year.
Both Steamboat Springs High School students will compete against the top speakers and debaters in the country at the National Forensics League National Speech Tournament in Philadelphia in June.
Lopez qualified for the prestigious tournament during a qualifying event last weekend in Greeley. The freshman finished fourth in the foreign extemporaneous speaking event after a few previous attempts in the event. Lopez and the tournament's third-place finisher earned berths to the national tournament when the top two finishers in foreign extemporaneous speaking chose to compete at the national level in other events in which they had qualified.
"Ashley keeps surprising us," speech and debate team co-coach Shauna Lamansky said. "It's all very exciting."
Lopez is the first Steamboat freshman to qualify for the national tournament, Lamansky said. The school has sent 17 students to the national tournament in the past 21 years; thirty have qualified for the national tournament.
"It's amazing to have a freshman qualify for nationals," Lamansky said. "It's really, really rare."
Lopez said she was as surprised as her coaches.
"I wasn't expecting to get very far," Lopez said Thursday. "I've only done (foreign extemporaneous speaking) five times in my life. I didn't expect to get to finals."
Students competing in foreign extemporaneous speaking are asked to speak for five to seven minutes, without notes, about foreign policies or other global issues. Competitors have 30 minutes to prepare for the specific topic assigned for each event.
Shaw, in her second and final year on the school's speech and debate team, qualified for the National Student Congress competition after she finished third in a qualifying event in Louisville in early February.
For Shaw, qualifying for the national tournament was redemption for last year, when she finished fourth at the qualifying event and was named first alternate for the national competition.
The senior said she's excited to get another shot at competing in student Congress, an event that separates competitors into Houses of Representatives and Senates and has them debate current political issues while following the traditional customs and procedures of legislative debate. Shaw said Congress is her favorite event, particularly because it enables her to debate "real-life issues."
Shaw and Lopez will begin preparing for the national tournament in the coming weeks. The girls also will work with the team's coaches to raise money for their trip to Philadelphia.
"I think it's definitely cool that two of us qualified," Shaw said.
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