Running on one hour and 15 minutes of sleep, undefeated extemporaneous speaker Milo Newman wasn’t entirely sure how his senior year at state speech was going to play out.
“I wasn’t worried or nervous at all. I just couldn’t fall asleep,” he said. “So I woke up, and thought, ‘...This is how it’s going to be.’”
Whether it was the extra caffeine or the adrenaline that kept him going, it was enough to get him to finals. He hit a wall not long after he finished his final round, but by then it didn’t matter. He ended up as the Class B state champion of extemporaneous speaking, rounding out Newman’s two-year winning streak.
“I went all junior year and senior year placing first,” he said. “It’s good to look back on that. And now it’s just like, dang, I went that far somehow.”
Newman was among competitors in four events who placed at the March 18 state speech competition for the Gering Bulldog Barkers, skyrocketing them to third place in the team sweepstakes, behind York and Omaha Skutt Catholic and tied with Aurora.
Other finalists for Gering include Wyatt Soule, Regan Fuller, Olivia Longmore, Tori Mannel and Abby Brady who finished third in OID; Emme Parker who finished fourth in persuasive speaking and Kennie Gable who placed third in humorous prose.
Gable, who is also a senior, said she felt blessed to be a part of such a great program for her four years of high school.
“Placing third is a huge accomplishment, not only for me but for the team. I was happy just to final, and then be able to place in the top three was a bigger blessing than just medaling,” she said. “I want to thank my coaches, because I couldn’t have done anything without them, let alone place at state. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Head coach Tyler Thompson said that despite some weird splits in the judging that kept some of his students from finaling at state, he felt the season overall was a success.
“After last season ended so abruptly and there was no kind of resolution, there was a lot of unfinished business, if you want to call it that,” he said. “Overall, (it was) a great season, lots of success and, lots of things to feel grateful for, very blessed to have worked with the kids that we had.”
Looking to next year, Thompson said it will be a bit of a rebuilding year. After all, of the 13 students in the 10 events who went to state this year, six of them were seniors.
“I always tell kids, though, no one is truly irreplaceable. You find other kids who step up to the challenge,” he said. “They’ll have to step up and plug the holes, but yeah, we will definitely miss the seniors — a lot of very dedicated and strong speakers. But like I said, you always find new kids to … coach up.”
It’s hard to believe it would be much of a challenge for the Barkers to rebuild next year with Thompson behind the wheel. In his 13 years as coach, the team has been champion or runner-up in their district every year except for 2010 when they lost a tiebreaker for runner-up and last year when districts were canceled.
“I think … the success lies in just never being satisfied with our performance, realizing nothing is ever too good to not change and being able to adapt and change with the trends and be flexible,” Thompson said. “The other thing I would say too, I’m blessed to work with really talented kids that as a coach helps make you look better. In my 13 years here, I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of really talented speakers that have come through the program. …
“I value passion and hard work and precision, excellence. And I think I try to instill that in the kids — doing everything with their whole heart and doing it really, really well every time they perform. A lot of times that leads to success.”
It was success that came for the Barkers this speech season, and both Gable and Newman have been proud of not only their individual accomplishments, but their team’s.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Gable said. “After a gap year from state and districts and then to come back and have an undefeated season through districts and place third at state, that’s a great accomplishment to be proud of.”
“I’m so proud of everyone, and it was an honor to be able to spend four years competing with everyone,” Newman said. “Even just this last year, being able to see all these new freshmen, all these new competitors, that came out and I got to watch them grow. I got to coach some of them, actually. It was a huge growing experience for everyone. And I am just so grateful for my team that’s been there for me for over the last four years.”
Thompson said that the Bulldog Barkers are planning a performance night in which the entire community will be invited to watch their various speaking events of the 2021 season, since only family was allowed to come to meets this year. More details for that event are to come.