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Hartington-Newcastle brings home yet another state championship

KEARNEY – The Hartington-Newcastle High School speech team has talked its way to a state title.

The Wildcats won the Nebraska School Activities Association’s 2022 State Speech Championships in Class C2 on March 17 at Kearney High School, a year after earning the runnerup spot as a team at the state speech contest.

This marks the time the Wildcats have hoisted the State Champion Speech trophy.

Hartington-Newcastle finished in first place this year with 118 points, with Twin River of Genoa gaining the second spot with 70 points and Elmwood-Murdock ending up in the third position with 64 points.

Wildcats speech coach A.J. Johnson said he was really proud of his students’ performances at the state speech competition.

“I was happy for the kids,” he said. “They’ve worked very hard.You never quite know what will happen when you get to state, but I felt good going into the day about how hard our kids had worked and about the quality of their performances. The kids have worked hard all season, and this is a great reward for them.”

Hartington-Newcastle had two entries that finished as state champions: the team of senior Parker Hopping, senior Reece Morten, senior Bennet Sievers, junior Turner Dendinger and junior Carsen Hopping in Oral Interpretation of Drama, and Morten in Serious Prose.

“This year was a really good year for our team,” Parker Hopping said. “Collectively, we performed really well at state by getting everyone in finals except one. I’m really proud of the work this team put in and the effort we gave every day to become as good as we can.”

Johnson had the opportunity to watch both of the Wildcats’ OID teams perform during the final round of competition.

Hartington-Newcastle’s other OID squad of junior Lane Heimes, junior Jude Krie, junior Alivia Morten, sophomore Mani Lange and sophomore Dayton Sudbeck earned third place at the state speech contest.

“Both OID teams performed very well in finals, and I felt that they would both finish high,” Johnson said. “For Bennet, Parker and Reece, it was the culmination of a career that saw them win gold medals as freshmen, juniors and seniors in OID and state was canceled when they were sophomores due to COVID. I was happy for them to end their careers that way.”

The speech coach also was able to watch Reece Morten in action during the final round of Serious Prose and noted that he performed well.

“As a sophomore, Reece agreed to try Serious Prose to help the team,” Johnson said. “Over the past few years, he has not only enjoyed a great deal of success, but he has grown tremendously as a performer. That is all due to hard work. Reece has been one of the hardest-working kids I’ve had the privilege to coach.”

In other state speech competition medal results, Parker Hopping and Sievers finished in fourth place in Duet Acting, while Lane Heimes and Sudbeck ended up behind them in fifth.

“Heading down to Kearney, I was very optimistic about our chances to win,” Sudbeck said of the Wildcats as a team. “We had a bunch of strong pieces, and we went into finals and performed very well.”

Sophomore Kennedy Gotch finished in fourth place in Informative Speaking for Hartington-Newcastle.

“I am so happy and so proud of how we performed at state,” Gotch said. “We’ve all worked so hard this season and it feels so amazing to see it all pay off. I am already looking forward to next season and what it has in store for us.”

Freshman Cole Heimes earned fifth place in Entertainment Speaking for the Wildcats, while senior Carson Jones ended up in sixth.

“We had one other senior performing, and that was Carson Jones in Entertainment,” Johnson said. “I know he wanted to finish higher, but I am proud of the work that he put in during his career, which saw him earn two state medals.”

Cole Heimes described performing during the state speech contest as “a great experience.”

“Performing against state competition allowed me to watch other speeches that I haven’t seen before,” he said. “I was excited to see how well I would perform against some of the best of the best.”

The younger Heimes noted that he is looking forward to improving his speech performance and competing for a gold medal at the state competition in 2023.

“I am proud to be a part of this team and I can’t wait until next year,” he said. “I’m so happy for all of my team members. Although we won as a team, I was disappointed with my placement.”

Johnson noted that winning a medal at the state speech contest is not easy.

“Just getting to state is an accomplishment and getting a medal is a larger one,” he said. “These kids have a lot to be proud of.”

So does Johnson after Hartington-Newcastle won the Class C2 state championship this year.

“I am proud to be their coach, not for winning, but for the way they worked this season and their desire to get better with every practice,” he said. “You can’t control winning and losing, but you can control your effort. They put in a championship effort.”

State Speech dominance

The Hartington and Hartington-Newcastle speech teams have quite an impressive record of winning state titles, earning their seventh last week.

2022 State Champs

2021 State Runnner-up

2020 COVID-19

2019 State Champs

2018 State Champs

2014 State Runner-up

2013 State Champs

2011 State Runner-up

2010 State Champs

2009 State Runner-up

2008 State Runner-up

2007 State Runner-up

2006 State Runner-up

2005 State Runner-up

2003 State Champs

2002 State Champs

2001 State Runner-up