‘Speech provides numerous opportunities your’re not going to find anywhere else,’ Hendrickson says.
By Kristen Miller
Section champion was never a goal of Ali Hendrickson’s, even throughout the six years she participated in speech.
When she began speech in seventh grade, Hendrickson admired those who became section champs or even those who finaled, but she never thought it would be something she would accomplish.
Therefore, she set what Hendrickson calls, “safe goals,” like winning first place at one of the speech meets during the season.
This year was different, though.
After changing her prose piece mid-season, with a series of nips and tucks, Hendrickson’s final prose piece wowed the judges who named her 2AA prose section champion.
Hendrickson began her final speech season with a prose piece that she said was, “not me at all.”
Then, in mid-February, Hendrickson went on the Harvard speech trip, where she heard a piece she became particularly interested in.
It was a piece from “Survivor,” written by the author of “Fight Club,” Chuck Palahniuk.
The book is a life story told from the perspective of the last surviving member of a religious cult who, within a matter of minutes, will be plummeting to his death in an airplane.
She enjoyed hearing the piece so much, Hendrickson bought the book, read and highlighted over half of it, making her own version from it.
“I made 100 cuts before I had my final piece,” Hendrickson said.
Many times, in the prose category, participants will read excerpts or a chapter from a book. However, Hendrickson wanted to tell the whole story and therefore, took pieces from throughout the entire book, she said.
The prose piece Hendrickson chose was definitely one of the most difficult in her speech career.
“But it was also the most rewarding to be section champion with something completely cut and put together myself,” she said.
Hendrickson explained that many times in prose, participants will do the same stories, or “clichés” as she called them, which judges see over and over.
With “Survivor,” this was a piece all up to her own interpretation, she said, since it was new to the judges’ ears.
Another reason this piece was more difficult for Hendrickson was because she never had the same speech to memorize.
With each speech, she made more cuts, making it even more stressful for her, Hendrickson said.
Part of the reason for the cuts was to shorten her piece from 12 minutes to an eight-minute speech, which was the time limit allotted for section speeches.
“In the end, it gave me a much better speech than if I’d made all the cuts right away,” she said.
Hendrickson’s speech coach, Susan Marco, said she did the “unbelievable” this year by switching categories in speech, and memorizing all new material.
“This paid off for her,” Marco said referring to her Section 2AA championship in the prose category.
“Ali is an incredible speaker and individual,” Marco said. “I have full confidence that [she] will continue to achieve success in whatever she may pursue in the future.”
Hendrickson further explained that speech is subjective “all you can control is your own performance,” she said.
“It depends on who’s [competing] and what the judge thinks, most of all,” she said.
For example, a participant could place first in one round and last in another depending on what the judge likes, Hendrickson said.
This was also one of the reasons Hendrickson didn’t set the goal of winning sections.
Speech has given Hendrickson a lot of skills, including speaking skills and establishing a presence in a room, she said.
In speech, participants are very devoted and, she said, oftentimes face their biggest fears by performing in front of judges.
“Speech prepares you for the professional world. You have to be professional and look good,” Hendrickson said.
The reason Hendrickson likes speech so much is because she is very competitive and enjoys the adrenaline she gets from being in front of a crowd, she said.
Hendrickson also thinks speech is fun because one can take so many different approaches to it.
“I don’t think it’s a skill that a lot of people naturally possess,” she added.
To prepare for competitions, Hendrickson practices her speech more in her head than out loud and she recommends getting in the mind set, “or else you are completely disconnected and you can totally tell in the performance,” she said.
Hendrickson also advises not overacting. She said it’s important to understand what the character is thinking and what they are going through.
“I would encourage people to join speech because you learn so many things that can’t be learned in the classroom. Public speaking is a skill you are going to need for any path you choose in life,” she said.
“Speech provides numerous opportunities that your’re not going to find anywhere else,” Hendrickson added.
After graduation, Hendrickson will be attending St. Cloud State University in the fall.
At first, Hendrickson was thinking about becoming a dental hygienist.
Now, she is thinking more about putting her speech skills to good use, possibly in the area of public relations, where she can she can give presentations.
“That [profession] is totally up my ally,” she said. “I love presenting, it’s my thing.”
“I think [PR] will really play off my talents,” she added.