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While climbing the same stage where she had joined her team to receive a trophy just a year before, Lakeview High School junior Madison Schwarz felt pride in knowing that this time was different.

All of the school’s competitors at last week’s NSAA State Speech Tournament in Kearney felt it too. For the second straight year, the Lakeview speech team earned the title of Class B runner-up. For the second straight year, they finished behind Central Conference rival York. This time, however, they needed to do it without a single returning state medalist.

And from the beginning, they knew that they would have to do it collectively.

“Coach told us before the season that we have never gone backwards, so together we were determined to not only sustain last year’s success, but to get even better as a team,” said Schwarz, who was the team’s leading point earner by placing fourth in Serious Interpretation and third in Persuasive Speaking.

Thursday’s results speak to that determination. The Viking speakers cut champion York’s margin of victory down by 40 points from the previous year, and—after finishing tied for the second spot in 2017—distanced themselves from third-place Gering by 16 points. They attribute the gains to becoming more balanced as a team.

“On paper it might look the same, but last year we had just three people, all seniors, place at the very top of their four events” said Junior Savanna Denton, who by finishing fourth in Persuasive Speaking joined a group of nine Lakeview students who placed a total of seven events. “We might not have all gotten the rankings we wanted individually, but as a team we showed that Lakeview is a force.”

Individually, though, a number of Lakeview speakers had a remarkable day. This includes Senior Madelyn Hogeland, the recipient of a fifth place medal in Informative Speaking and a third place medal in Interpretation of Poetry.

“Before this year, just placing at state in any event would have exceeded my expectations,” Hogeland said. “But placing in two and contributing to my team’s state runner-up trophy makes me very happy.”

Another Senior, Kathleen Howland, believes her fifth place finish in Entertainment Speaking will serve as a reminder of how to overcome adversity.

“It shows that I can do anything I put my mind to no matter how rough it is at the start,” said Howland, referencing her early-season struggles in the event. “I will never forget the walk to the stage to receive my medal. It was amazing.”

Howland also medaled in Oral Interpretation of Drama (OID), a group event that is akin to a short play. The five-person group consisted of herself, fellow senior Dylan Arends, juniors Emily Cunningham and Madison Mahoney, and sophomore Ethan Goldfish Vinson. Each credits the team’s culture of hard work for their fourth place finish in the event. Vinson estimates that the time the OID group spent practicing together throughout the season topped 100 hours.

“There were some nights we spent hours trying to perfect the staging of a single scene,” said Vinson. “It just shows that hard work truly pays off.”

For head coach Quinten Lyon, who is in his eighth year at the school, it is the rewarding of this hard work that made the day special.

“These competitors spend hours every week perfecting their craft, and they do not usually get to showcase it in front of large cheering crowds as those in athletics often do,” Lyon said. “To see them be honored in front of an arena full of their peers and a broadcast audience is really gratifying.”

For the 25 member team, bringing another trophy to the halls of Lakeview is a satisfying cap to a season that began in October. For those returning next year, however, the achievement does not signal an opportunity to relax.

“We have so much potential to do more,” said Schwarz. “We are ready to push on and work harder to make it happen.”

If she and her teammates find themselves climbing that same stage again in 2019, their hope is to realize yet another goal—to take one step further.

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