Fairmont speech team stands out at state

FAIRMONT – Zach Brown and Anagha Komaragiri, two members of Fairmont’s 13-student delegation, won championship honors at the recent Minnesota State Speech Tournament.

Brown was named champion in creative expression, while Komaragiri earned top honors in informative speaking.

“I was confident I would do well, but I didn’t think about winning,” said Brown, a senior headed to St. John’s University next year. He said the most important thing was “to let the audience have fun.”

The creative expression category requires entrants to compose their own speech. After weeks of mulling over different topics and angles, Brown chose to write about “How you can’t judge people on first impressions.” His original draft took 13 minutes to deliver, so he had to pare it down to the required eight minutes.

“In creative expression, you can be funny or serious, and you try to have an underlying message,” Brown said.

He opted for the humorous route, including seven different characters in his presentation.

“I played all of them,” he said.

His performance earned top marks through three preliminary stages and the final competition in front of about 100 people.

Komaragiri, like Brown, has been part of the speech team since seventh grade. Now finishing her sophomore year, she plans to continue her participation in speech.

Komaragiri has competed in the informative speech division since she joined the team. Participants select a topic, research and write about it, and then deliver their data in the requisite eight-minute presentation. Her topic was memes, a name give to “basically an idea that becomes popular,” or passed on to others through imitation, she explained.

It was during speech camp at Gustavus Adolphus College last summer that Komaragiri got the idea for her speech. She also credits the individualized attention from the camp’s coaching staff as contributing to her achievement at the state level this year.

While she got the idea for her speech at camp, she spent many weeks writing and editing it.

“You’re always changing it, just minor things,” she said. “Later, you work to improve your performance.”

Fairmont earned a team record of nine medals at state. Others winning recognition were Courtney Guetter, second in drama; Julia Okerman, second in extemporaneous reading; Antonio Johnson, third in prose; Peter Nielsen, third in great speeches; Mary Kennedy, fifth in drama; Rachel Poppe, sixth in poetry; and Espen Anthony, seventh in humorous.

Other team members participating were Missy Viesselman and Tony Joseph in original oratory, and Mikayla Soelter in storytelling.

The team is coached by Cliff and Roxy Janke, with Phyllis Surprenant serving as assistant coach.