Willow Damar won her second straight medal and first as a State champion.

This past Friday and Saturday marked the final tournament of the competitive speech season in Minnesota.

Teams from around the state, with their advancing speakers in tow, traveled to Wayzata High School to compete at the Minnesota State High School League State Speech Tournament. The competition, spanning two days, hosts both single and double A teams competing Friday and Saturday respectively.

Each of the 13 categories is comprised of the top 24 speakers in the state. After competing at the Section 8A Tournament, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley advanced five speakers. With impending weather complications, the team left a day early — arriving with plenty of time to spare. After a day of rest and preparation, the speaking individuals competed in three preliminary rounds Friday. One Walker Talker advanced to the final round and finished the day with a championship medal.

The following speakers advanced out of sections and competed at the state tournament: Jayda Dickson competed in Informative, Dylan Johnson in Extemp. Reading, Willow Damar in Drama, Katelyn DeLost in Creative and Molly Massar in Storytelling.

After competing in three preliminary rounds of drama, Damar moved into the final round. She performed in front of five judges who, combined, ranked her performance at the top, earning her a championship medal.

Damar’s place at the top of the Drama category was not earned without years of practice and determination. She joined the speech team as a seventh-grader in the category of Extemp. Speaking. By her eighth grade she tapped into her natural talent for writing and entered the persuasive category of Original Oratory.

After three years, three letters and two state appearances, she earned a seventh-place state medal in Oratory as a sophomore. After that, she joined the category of Drama and earned herself the top spot by the end of the season.

In addition to her success this year on the team, she has also won an essay contest earning her a trip to Washington D.C. this summer. Damar’s performance this year, and in years past, cannot be chalked up to natural talent alone. Throughout her speech career she has demonstrated a fierce passion for the activity. Those not familiar with speech will watch Damar’s performance and see a polished product,. However, hidden from view are all the elements that lead up to that performance.

Speakers must commit to hours of practice; free time given to Saturday tournaments; the balancing of work, school, family and friends; and unfortunately, the moment when the season ends early without an opportunity to perform at another tournament. These are the building blocks necessary to earn a championship medal.

Damar’s medals now fortify the stack that Walker has historically been building since the team’s inception. As a junior, Willow has one more year at WHA and one more year with the team. Without a doubt, her passion will carry her to another successful season.

With the conclusion of the state tournament, the Minnesota speech season has now come to an end. However, two Walker speakers will be attending just one more tournament before hanging up their Saturday’s best. Dickson and Damar will be heading to the National Individual Tournament of Champions in Omaha, Neb., in May. After achieving high ranks all season, the two have qualified for this tournament and will extend their participation just one more month.

Now that the season has concluded, the Walker Talkers can take a well earned break. Each and every speaker contributed to the overall success of the team, and their grit and determination is something to be admired. In addition, their innate talent makes the WHA Speech Team a beacon in the north. As a coach, my desire to continue is fueled by the spirit that each of our speakers possesses. Without any graduating seniors, the team will return next year at full strength.

WHA tops the Class A list with 43 state champions between 1969 and 2019, which is good for third place on the list of Most State Champions.

The Walker Talkers also tops the list of top medal-winning Class A schools with 241.

Before concluding, it’s important to thank those that have made this activity possible. First off, thank you to the parents and guardians who have supported their speakers, as well as the team. Thank you for driving your speakers to and from the bus on Saturdays. Thank you for attending home meets and running the judge’s lounge and concessions. Most importantly, thank you for all the support at home that we as coaches cannot provide.

Thank you to the WHA administration team for being so patient as we hosted three tournaments this year. Thank you to the janitorial staff who worked long hours to make our school a welcoming environment. We consider it a great honor to showcase our school to teams from around the state. Finally, thank you to all community members, friends, and family members who believe in this activity and the wealth it brings to our community.

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