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HNS Speech team isn’t able to go after third straight State title

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Alan Dale

Cedar County News

HARTINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic not only forced the cancellation of all school activities, but also dashed the dreams of area speech team members.

That includes the whitewashing of the 2020 speech season and the dashed hopes of the Hartington-Newcastle crew which came into the campaign with six state titles dating back to 2002 – along with 2003, 2010, 2013, 2018-19.

The two-time defending state champion Hartington-Newcastle speech team will have to wait another year before they get a chance at their third straight state title.

“I felt really bad for the kids, especially the seniors,” head coach and Hartington-Newcastle Public Schools Supt. AJ Johnson said. 

Johnson said the Class of 2020 made quite a contribution to the HNS Speech program.

“They have been strong contributors to our program all four years.  They all have multiple state medals and have been leaders the last couple of years.  They are fierce competitors,” he said. “Mostly, they’re just really great kids that I love.  I’m sorry that their careers had to end this way.  I’m truly going to miss coaching them.”

In reality, Johnson thought that this year’s team had the ability to go for another state title after the early returns.

“We’ve done well at several meets and have been building throughout the year and I feel like we had a really good shot to do some really good things at the district and state meets,” Johnson said.

Senior Sam Harms leaves behind the wasteland of a season that was left in the dust of ‘what if’ knowing at least he was able to give the one speech he had hoped.

“My speech was about being a momma’s boy,” Harms said. 

Every year in his speech he has made one joke about his mom and this year he decided to make the whole speech about her. 

“She got to see it once this season. It was pretty good because usually at the end of the entertainment speeches you don’t usually get serious. At the end, I got serious and kind of got taken by surprise and it really hit home. She really liked it,” he said.
“I might have cried once or twice. My mom did. I am happy I got to do it at least once. We won a few times with that speech. We were successful with that during the season, so I guess it takes a little of the sting off.”

Harms was very optimistic of his team’s chances to win state again.

“I definitely think we could have won again,” Harms said. “We lost a lot of good seniors, but we had a lot of good speeches, so it is really disappointing. It’s odd to think what could have been, because nobody expected this to happen.”

The reality of it all still hasn’t hit home for him, yet.

“It hasn’t hit me, yet, that I won’t be able to perform my speech at state.”

Harms was a defending state runner-up in both entertainment and Oral Interpretation group speech and expected to do some more damage at state again this year.

Johnson could get over the loss of the promise of more greatness to take a practical view of these times.

“This whole situation is much bigger than speech season and we have to keep that in perspective,” Johnson said. “But that said, it doesn’t ease the sting of kids who have been working for months toward a goal.  Most of these kids spend a lot of time at speech practice, and that’s usually after basketball practice since many of them are in basketball or if they aren’t, they have part-time jobs.  They give up several Saturdays in a row to compete.  Our kids are involved in multiple activities and it requires a great deal of sacrifice to be good.”

Johnson said he and coaches Linda Kathol and Lindsay Stappert are very proud of the effort the squad put in this year.