By Tony Parra
Portales High School students in speech competitions may not receive as much fanfare as the students in the basketball state tournament but nonetheless they still had the spotlight shine on them this week during the 2006 New Mexico High School Speech Tournament in Portales.
Anthony Schroeder, tournament director and Eastern New Mexico University professor, said more than 250 students from 16 high schools are competing in the tournament. The tournament began on Thursday and ends today with the award ceremony scheduled for this afternoon.
There are 16 students representing Portales High School at the competitions, according to Kristelle Siarza, an assistant coach with the team. Siarza said the students had intense practices after school to get ready for the state tournament. She said some students spent 10-20 hours a week researching a topic.
“I’ve loved it,” Kim Hilliard, Portales High School freshman, said about competing in the state tournament. “It gives me an opportunity to meet other people and build my speaking skills to work in public relations. Before I joined speech and debate (team), I was too terrified to speak in front of other people. Now I’m a lot more outgoing.”
On Friday, Shawn Vigil, a Portales High School junior, was competing in the congress event, in which, Vigil argued to pass state legislation that would require private businesses to recycle.
“I think the most successful students are the ones who ask a lot of questions during the sessions,” Vigil said.
Daniel Perez, a Portales High School sophomore, was competing in his first state speech tournament. Perez was not on the speech team last year.
“I have a lot of friends who were in it so I decided to join,” Perez said. “It interested me to find out what it (speech team) was all about.”
Students compete in different events such as debate, student congress, interpretative reading, duo, oratory, and other public speaking events. Alyssa Sapp, Anthony Shillingburg, Bryan Watson, Sunny Liu and Orlando Shelly were some of the other Portales students competing in the state contests.
“It’s been going good,” Schroeder said on Friday afternoon. “We have a good variety of students from around the state.”
Schroeder said students from Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Deming schools traveled to Portales to compete.
“It gives us a chance to meet other people from around the state,” Joe Sisneros, a Portales High sophomore, said. “It gives you an opportunity to compete for something.”
Schroeder has been involved in 27 state tournaments held at ENMU and said ENMU has hosted the event more times than any other institution in New Mexico.
“It is also a good recruiting tool for ENMU,” Schroeder said. “I generally find that between 15 to 25 students that I’ve seen in these competitions come to Eastern. It (tournament) gives them a chance to talk with faculty.”