Brian Pagnano, Danielle Norton and Jeana Chapman fared quite well at the section speech tournament on April 5 in Byron. Pagnano and Norton advanced to the state tournament, which was held this past weekend in Blaine, Minn. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Brian Pagnano, Danielle Norton and Jeana Chapman fared quite well at the section speech tournament on April 5 in Byron. Pagnano and Norton advanced to the state tournament, which was held this past weekend in Blaine, Minn. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Two Chatfield seniors, Brian Pagnano and Danielle Norton, are speechless for the first time in years.

And they're taking it personally.

Pagnano and Norton represented Chatfield this past weekend as they participated in the state speech tournament held at Blaine High School in Blaine, Minn.

"I'm really excited. I can't express how actually excited I am," Norton said. "I've been in speech since seventh grade and I've been close at sections, but actually being able to win and go to state is really emotional, especially because I'm a senior and this is my last shot...it's something I really wanted to do.

Norton placed first in prose at the April 5 section speech tournament held in Byron, garnering her an opportunity to take the stage at the state speech tournament, the final speaking engagement of her speech team career.

Speech team captain Pagnano earned second place at the section competition in discussion, also securing him a place at the state contest.

Jeana Chapman brought home a definitive fourth place as an eighth grader in informative speech, just missing out on the chance to represent her school at the state tournament, but who is quite proud of her achievements as an eighth grader. She looks up to her fellow speech participants and hopes to one day represent her school at the state tournament in a similar manner.

The speech students are three of five students who coach Rachel Schieffelbein took to the section tournament earlier in April, all of who are very proud to have stood up and spoken their minds about their respective topics.

Norton calls attending the April 5 section tournament and the state tournament "bittersweet." She looks forward to the prospect of moving people's hearts with her performance of a soliloquy on the Holocaust and then moving on to graduation. She's certain she'll be just as nervous, or even more so, at state as she is when anticipating any other competition. She actually chose to miss her senior class trip to Florida to be at the section tournament.

"I'm usually really, really nervous at meets," Norton added. "I hope for the best. State is always a fun time with the team, our last get-together - shopping, staying at the hotel, dinner. Competing is always nerve-racking, but it's the icing on the cake at this point. I'm happy to have made it."

Norton said the final round at the contest is always "super intimidating and competitive" and she feels anxious the whole day.

"Mrs. (Kelly) Puent has been there most of the time as our coach and definitely made an impact on our success, but Rachel has been there every step of the way, too, and she's been my rock," Norton stated. "This will be bittersweet - there isn't a better way to end my speech career than this way. I'm going to miss it."

Pagnano agreed that it is exciting to have made it to state, which is also his last chance to participate. "I've always been interested in politics and debate," he explained. "I started speech as a freshman, I went to state as a sophomore, and I've stuck with the same category all four years. I've always been a strong competitor and placed well, so I was confident that I would make the finals at sections, and hopefully the judges would pick me."

He said the primary challenge for him was not knowing what task you will be given for the debate.

"You get an outline of what your research should be, but you can never fully anticipate what you'll be speaking about," Pagnano explained. "It's the sheer competition...the 24 best in the state of Minnesota, and while I'm one of them, it's still challenging...but going to state as a senior is going to be bittersweet."

As a 10th grader, Pagnano said he still had two years of his speech career ahead of him, so going to state was a bit less intimidating then than it is this year. "This will be my last, but also hardest speech, as there's no room for error. It's a gratifying capstone to my speech career to have made it to state as a senior," he added.

Both seniors expressed their hope that the speech team thrives in the coming years, as they've learned numerous life lessons, gained countless friends and found ways to be crazy together.

Norton reflected, "I think being in speech team, I've made the best friends. The people you meet in speech have a certain quality...it's a good place to be yourself."

Pagnano stated, "There's definitely more of that individuality aspect. People aren't afraid to be themselves - we're very nonjudgmental - and I'll miss the random bursts of laughter, miss the team spirit, miss the fact that there's always another speech meet to go to. I'm proud of my team this year. As captain, I've watched them grow and people have changed in a very positive way."

Chapman is part of that speech team future and her presentation this year was on nanotechnology. She pointed out she finds the topic "pretty interesting," as she has to research and write her own speech for the meets.

"It's really hard to cover because there was a wide realm of information, and I had to know it all," Chapman said. "I think at a speech meet, it's fun to compete, but more fun to see how I did at the last meet. Hopefully, I've improved. I'm only in eighth grade, and obviously, seniors like Brian and Danielle have come close to this in past years and almost made it, so that's why I was really surprised at how I did."

Informative speech has been Chapman's "go-to" format, but she hopes to expand her speaking abilities to include creative expression since she is a writer.

No matter what she speaks about, she's happy to be a part of the team. "It's really fun, no matter what I do and how I do because of the people I get to meet."