WILLMAR - There's never a dull moment with the Willmar speech team.
This weekend at a national competition in Omaha, team members will interpret the writings of a survivor of the Sandy Hook school shooting and offer an informational presentation about the way early trauma can affect a person's brain.
There's a funny bit about beauty queens marooned on a deserted island and an informational presentation tracking the changing public opinion of same-sex marriage.
Speech competitions are a lot more than getting dressed up in a suit to recite a famous speech.
Depending on the category entered, presentations can include acting, movement, drama and humor. In extemporaneous speaking, participants have a short time to prepare a speech about a given subject.
Everyone will still be dressed in a suit, though. It's an unwritten rule.
This was a big year for the team from Willmar Senior High School. The team has grown from 15 to 45 in the past two years, said head coach David Vinje.
Three speakers made it to the state finals in April, and this weekend, six are participating in a national competition.
The national competition chooses students on a point system from their regular season. Vinje said this was the first year the Willmar team attempted to qualify, and "we got six."
"We serve a diverse group of students and are what I believe is the best bang-for-buck activity offered in the high school," he wrote of his team last month.
The six students at the national competition this weekend are Kylie Halvorson, humorous interpretation; Sonja Madsen, humorous interpretation; Natasha Klatt, informative speaking; Asli Abdi, informative speaking; Nasra Ibrahim, original oratory; and Rachel Lanning, prose.
The three students who made it to the state finals are Kylie Halvorson, eighth place; Asli Abdi, sixth place; and Rachel Lanning, sixth place.
Students headed to Omaha and other team members gathered Monday to talk about their year and to go over their presentations.
Lanning said the national competition was "super exciting" for the team.
In the week before the competition, they were doing run-throughs and taking care of "really nitpicky" details, Lanning said. Madsen called it "polishing the little details."
There's a fine line when working on the final product, team members said - they need to know every word, every nuance of their presentation and manage to avoid sounding rehearsed.
So why speech?
Kathryn Gubrud, a senior and captain on the team, said being on the team helps build confidence.
"Every day you go up there and do something outside your comfort zone," Klatt said.
Several team members credited Gubrud for encouraging them to join the team. Klatt said she's invited several friends, too.
Friends are curious about the team, they said, and wonder why they think it's fun to spend every Saturday speaking in front of people.
"There are so many stereotypes," Abdi said, but with 13 categories there's probably something to interest everyone.
Assistant coaches are Andy Tupa, April Clark, Anna Zieske and Sarah Swedburg.