LPS students capture top honors at national speech tournament

Lincoln Public Schools students showcased their speaking talents this spring by capturing top honors in a national speech tournament.
East, North Star, Southeast and Southwest students traveled to Bellevue West High School for the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC). The four LPS speech teams joined more than 150 other schools for NIETOC workshops and competitive events.
Students participated in 12 speech categories at NIETOC. They earned trophies for advancing to the octafinals, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of their events.
NIETOC officials split schools into three equal divisions – Act I, Act II and Act III – based on the number of competitors each team brought to Bellevue. Students scored different amounts of points for their schools based on how far they advanced in each event.

Lincoln East

East enjoyed one of the best NIETOC finishes in school history. The Spartans claimed third place in Act III team standings with 271 points. Apple Valley, Minn., was first with 334 points and Moorhead, Minn., was second with 275 points. East edged Harlingen South of Harlingen, Texas, (269 points) for the third-place spot.

East head coach Nick Herink said he was thrilled with the team’s success. Max Apel and Luke Nash each won national championships and Isabella Razdan and Harper Schupbach were national runners-up. Fifteen other Spartans helped the squad earn the coveted third-place trophy.
“We were through-the-roof excited,” Herink said. “Most people don’t appreciate how competitive speech can be, but these kids work year-round with competitions and practice. It was so cool to see an achievement like this that all of the kids had a direct hand in making happen.”
This year marked the second time the Spartans finished in the top three at nationals since NIETOC began in 2010. The school placed second in Act III in 2015.
Apel (dramatic interpretation) and Nash (oral interpretation of poetry) both soared to the top of the medal stand. Their final-round performances let them leave Bellevue with golden awards.
“It was a very exciting and humbling experience when I heard my name called,” Apel said. “I was so thankful to be on that stage surrounded by such talented competitors from across the nation.”
“The only way to describe it would be that it felt amazing,” Nash said. “I kinda felt like I froze and had to let it sink in for a moment, and then after I was just ecstatic. I can’t really put into words exactly how I felt. I had all of these people around me asking how I felt or telling me good job, and all I could think to say in response was ‘amazing’ or ‘thank you.’”
Razdan (extemporaneous speaking) and Schupbach (informative speaking) earned second place in their categories. In addition to their individual achievements, both earned a large number of team points.

Nash said it was exciting when the Spartans looked at the final leaderboard and saw they had moved into third place.
“It was pretty awesome to be the third-place team at a national tournament,” Nash said. “We had never done this well on the national level. Last year we placed seventh at NIETOC and were top ten at NSDA nationals, and now all of a sudden we were the third-place team. It’s really cool and I’m so happy and proud to be part of the team.”
Apel and Nash joined an elite group of LPS students to win national titles. The previous NIETOC champions from Lincoln were East students Carla Seravalli (2015, expository speaking), Suvy Qin (2015, original oratory) and Claire Rooney (2023, poetry) and Southwest students Mattison Merritt and Hunter Maude (2014, duet acting).
The Spartans began the year by setting a goal of a top-five finish at NIETOC. Herink said it was rewarding to see them secure their national dreams.
“The kids were the ones who came up with the goal, and at first I was admittedly nervous,” Herink said. “But then we buckled down and got to work. These kids push each other and applaud each other. To have them see their goal can be accomplished with teamwork and dedication, to me, that is the greatest lesson you can learn through speech.”
Lincoln East Results
Dramatic Interpretation: Max Apel – National Champion, 1st overall
Dramatic Interpretation: Sophia Wang – Octafinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Linnea Blankenhorn – Octafinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Jack Welstead – Octafinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Nusrat Amin – Octafinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Abena Bonsu – Octafinalist
Oral Interpretation of Poetry: Luke Nash – National Champion, 1st overall
Oral Interpretation of Poetry: Vesta Anderson – Semifinalist, 10th overall
Oral Interpretation of Poetry: Sloan Donahoo – Semifinalist, 12th overall
Informative Speaking: Harper Schupbach – National Runner-Up, 2nd overall
Informative Speaking: Nitya Haridas – Octafinalist
Informative Speaking: Maggie Lammie – Octafinalist
Extemporaneous Speaking: Isabella Razdan – National Runner-Up, 2nd overall
Extemporaneous Speaking: Hannah Tang – Quarterfinalist
Humorous Interpretation: Max Apel – Semifinalist, 7th overall
Humorous Interpretation: Nusrat Amin – Quarterfinalist
Humorous Interpretation: Korben Ockander – Octafinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Max Apel – Semifinalist, 11th overall
Program Oral Interpretation: Jack Welstead – Quarterfinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Claire Rooney – Octafinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Korben Ockander – Octafinalist
Duo Interpretation: Claire Rooney, Jack Welstead – Quarterfinalist
Duet Acting: Nusrat Amin, Claire Rooney – Quarterfinalist
Original Oratory: Isabella Razdan – Quarterfinalist
Original Oratory: Reazin Bauman – Quarterfinalist
Original Oratory: Ellie Hiser – Octafinalist

Lincoln Southeast

Southeast placed 11th in Act III with 75 points. Eight Knights reached the octafinals of their events and the team posted points in ten categories.

Olivia Nelson used her speaking talents to become a two-time semifinalist for Southeast. She finished ninth in the country in humorous interpretation and secured a tenth-place finish in informative speaking. She also teamed up with Bella McCown to earn octafinal-level points in duo interpretation.
Gideon Terwilleger and Aolani Wilson each reached the semifinals and Julia Johnson was a two-time octafinalist. Lillias McKillip, DaZayah Hartshorn-Harvey and Kalainey Nickel all added points for the school.
Lincoln Southeast Results
Dramatic Interpretation: Julia Johnson – Octafinalist
Original Oratory: Julia Johnson – Octafinalist
Informative Speaking: Lillias McKillip – Octafinalist
Humorous Interpretation: DaZayah Hartshorn-Harvey – Octafinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Kalainey Nickey – Octafinalist
Duo Interpretation: Olivia Nelson, Bella McCown – Octafinalist
Oral Interpretation of Poetry: Gideon Terwilleger – Semifinalist, 8th overall
Oral Interpretation of Poetry: Aolani Wilson – Semifinalist, 11th overall
Humorous Interpretation: Olivia Nelson – Semifinalist, 9th overall
Informative Speaking: Olivia Nelson – Semifinalist, 10th overall

Lincoln Southwest

Southwest placed 16th in Act III with 37.50 points. Head coach Matt Heimes said he felt the Silver Hawks did well against many older competitors.
“I am extremely proud of the Southwest team members who competed at NIETOC,” Heimes said. “Many of them are underclassmen, so this was a great opportunity for them to watch and learn from some of the best programs in the entire country.”

Claire Timperley earned a national medal with a tenth-place result in impromptu speaking. Brooklyn Bruggeman posted points for the Silver Hawks in three categories, and Jack Anderson, Mason Farmer and Brooklyn Shoemaker all helped the team on the scoreboard.
“It was great to have several of our students advance to the elimination rounds, and the fact that Brooklyn Bruggeman advanced in all three of her events was a highlight,” Heimes said. “Claire making the national semifinals as a sophomore is another great accomplishment.”
Lincoln Southwest Results
Duo Interpretation: Jack Anderson, Brooklyn Bruggeman – Octafinalist
Duo Interpretation: Mason Farmer, Brooklyn Shoemaker – Octafinalist
Dramatic Interpretation: Brooklyn Bruggeman – Octafinalist
Program Oral Interpretation: Brooklyn Bruggeman – Octafinalist
Impromptu Speaking: Claire Timperley – Semifinalist, 10th overall
Extemporaneous Speaking: Jack Anderson – Quarterfinalist

Lincoln North Star

North Star tied for 44th place in Act I with ten points. Act I was the largest division with 92 teams. White Bear Lake, Minn., won the Act I team title with 85 points.
Head coach Alison Finn-Couch said she was proud of the way the Navigators handled the pressure of performing at nationals. Mabruka Mumade, Reyce Usher, Braxton Stuart and Avery Usher represented the school.

“I felt like my team did very well at NIETOC!” Finn-Couch said. “All four were simply honored to be there and gave their all in their rounds. Some even tried supplemental events as well. They were supportive of one another and the community, and were all around the pride of North Star speech.”
Mumade led the team by advancing to the quarterfinals of original oratory. Finn-Couch said she was thrilled to watch her enjoy a successful weekend.
“To see someone as dedicated and humble as Mabruka advance as far as she did was amazing to be a part of,” Finn-Couch said. “She put in so much time, energy, thoughtfulness and effort into her speech, and it was truly incredible to see her hard work being celebrated. My favorite part about seeing her advancing was seeing the team cheer her on and get as excited as they did when they saw her name.”

Lincoln North Star Results

Original Oratory: Mabruka Mumade – Quarterfinalist
Expository Speaking: Mabruka Mumade – Participant
Program Interpretation: Reyce Usher – Participant
Impromptu Speaking: Braxton Stuart – Participant
Duo Interpretation: Avery Usher, Braxton Stuart – Participant

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Published: June 10, 2024, Updated: June 11, 2024

From left, North Star High School students Reyce Usher, Mabruka Mumade, Avery Usher and Braxton Stuart smile at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC). The four Navigators joined students from East, Southeast and Southwest at the national speech tournament. Students from all four LPS teams did well against competitors from across the country.