Parsons High School forensic students Rayce Baker and Olivia Martinez were named state champions in improvised duet acting at the 4A State Speech Championship Saturday, breaking an extended drought on state wins for the school’s forensics team.
Baker and Martinez were runners-up in duo interpretation.
PHS debate and forensics coach Ed Workman said they are the first state champions from PHS since Tara Moreland in 2009.
The state tournament is the ultimate competition for students, where they are up against the best. All competitors there qualified for state by winning tournaments around the state.
Workman said in duo interpretation the two got off to a rough start with the first-round judges ranking them fourth out of five.
“The three in front of them were all comedy and theirs is a very serious one,” Workman said. “So they were a little frazzled right off the bat because they hadn’t gotten a four all year and to start the day with that, lots of nerves, lots of tension. We just had to have the discussion, ‘your piece doesn’t change, the judges do.’”
After that initial letdown, the reception to their piece was fantastic, Workman said. They started getting higher rankings and made the cut to the top 12, where the tension is pretty thick.
“They knocked the ball out of the park and hit a home run, made it into the final and made state runner-up, second place.” Workman said.
In the IDA, the two had no trouble until the final round, which Workman said was probably their worst round.
“But they had done so well up to that point,” Workman said, noting that all rankings from each portion of the competition count. “The judges in the final round have a big impact on how things turn out, but they don’t have the entire impact of how things turn out. They had built such a lead at that point, that they finished first.
“It is hard to be a state champion. whether it’s wrestling, football, baseball… . It’s hard to be the last one standing, to be the best of the best,” he said.
There were plenty of smiles and tears and photos in front of the Kansas State High School Activities Association banner.
By chance, Workman said it was his turn in the rotation to hand out medals, and he got to give the championship medals to his students.
“It was so amazing. The looks on their faces when they realized, ‘Oh yeah, we are champions,’” Workman said.
“It’s a special thing, and it was my first state champion,” Workman said. “It’s the end of forensics season as far as the state of Kansas is concerned, so they ended their high school career … in Kansas forensics on the highest possible note.”
The two are taking their duo to nationals this June.
“We will see how it does on the national stage, against the best of the best in the country,” he said.
Looking back on the season, he said it is amazing how hard they worked to get to the state championship.
“I coach all of the kids to be champions, but you know not all kids are willing to pay the price to be champion level. I tell all the kids, ‘This is going to make you good. This is going to make you great, and then they don’t do it, because being great is a lot of work when you are already good,” Workman said. “These young ladies committed to endlessly revisiting their pieces, endlessly revisiting their events, working on them, improving things, one-on-one feedback on a consistent basis that they listened to.
“It’s really hard to describe the feeling when you tell someone, ‘If this is what you want, we can get there if you listen to me and do these things. They listen and it comes out exactly like you said it would. That’s a wild feeling. It’s pretty fantastic.”
Shea Clark earned seventh place in poetry, just missing the final round.
“She’s a freshman. That’s crazy. Freshmen don’t usually make the state tournament much less getting up there that close to being in the final round,” Workman said. “If you want one of the telltale signs of a good career starting, making semis at state as a freshman, that is a really good sign. You have some of the natural things we need to be successful in this activity.”
Jazzy Palmer finished 12th in poetry. Carollyn Chapman finished 12th in dramatic interpretation.
McKia Lawrence took her dramatic interpretation to state, too, and finished a little further back in the pack at 19th, Workman said, but because she took a piece that had a lot of meaning for her, and that had a message, there was no failure.
Freshman Brelin Summers competed with Lawrence in improvised duet acting and they finished 12th. Workman said he is another student showing promise for the coming year in forensics.
Jayce Quirin and Madelyn Armitage competed in impromptu and extemporaneous speaking.
“They put in a nice effort,” Workman said, adding they finished respectably with scores in the teens. “You want all state champions, but there is a reason we have our first since 2009. It’s really hard to be the last one standing.”
Chloe Pontious was also at state competing in poetry.
“She had a good day,” Workman said of Pontious, who also finished in the teens. “Just being there, that’s a good day.”
Workman is not ready to say goodbye to his seniors, but he is excited thinking about the coming year because of what his seniors are leaving behind.
“We’re probably going to come back to different names, but the same commitment the same determination,” Workman said. “Rayce and Olivia did a very good job of being really open about the work that it takes. Sometimes the really talented like to make it seem like all it takes is talent and not really let people see the work, the hours that they do. It was really great that their ego allowed them to say, ‘This isn’t all talent. This is talent combined with work. A lot of work.’ So these freshmen and sophomores, they got to see that what we do isn’t something you tinker with during the week and then compete in on Saturdays. If you really want to be good, you have to commit to it. That’s really going to stick I think.”
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