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Hetland, Patrick prepare for national speech, debate competition

What do you call two Mitchell High School seniors in Florida? National speech and debate qualifiers. At a recent competition, close friends Madison Hetland and Thea Patrick both qualified for the national tournament, marking Hetland's second trip...

Madison Hetland, left, and Thea Patrick, right, both Mitchell High School seniors, recently qualified for the national speech and debate tournament in June in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Madison Hetland, left, and Thea Patrick, right, both Mitchell High School seniors, recently qualified for the national speech and debate tournament in June in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Matt Gade / Republic)

What do you call two Mitchell High School seniors in Florida? National speech and debate qualifiers.

At a recent competition, close friends Madison Hetland and Thea Patrick both qualified for the national tournament, marking Hetland's second trip to the competition and Patrick's first.

The duo will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, June 17 through June 22, where Patrick will compete in informative speaking and Hetland will vie for the domestic extemporaneous speaking title.

"We're really excited," Hetland said this week. "It's still a few months away but we're already starting to plan everything."

Informative speaking involves presenting about a predetermined subject, of which Patrick chose neuropsychology. She spent hours perfecting her eight- to 10-minute speech and creating supplemental visuals.

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Meanwhile, Hetland will enter the competition a little less prepared. Her event, domestic extemporaneous speaking, requires her to receive a topic regarding current events at the competition, then take 30 minutes to prepare a five to seven minute presentation.

Each girl has put endless time and effort into perfecting her craft, saying their extracurricular involvement is like having a full-time job.

And while the competition itself is exhilarating, Hetland said her favorite part about speech and debate is the people.

"Just the competitors you're with and you get to meet people from other towns and the judges are awesome for networking," Hetland said. "Also, because we do spend so much time working on it, we develop close relationships with people on the team."

The pair is more than prepared for the competition, first-year head coach Jeff Sand said. And their qualifying was no surprise, he said, citing dozens of instances in which Hetland and Patrick made headlines for winning tournaments throughout their high school careers.

"Their hard work, dedication to research, and willingness to help younger members of the team has not only helped them emerge as the cream of the crop on the SD high school debate circuit, but also as young adults who will go on to do great things in life," Sand said in an email to The Daily Republic. "... I have been fortunate to take over a team that had two seniors in Thea and Madison. They not only shared their knowledge and ideas with the team, but also helped me become a better coach in the world of speech and debate.

The bittersweet trip to the national competition will cap the girls' senior season and mark the beginning of their transition to college. Both plan to use the skills they've learned in speech and debate to bolster their future careers.

Hetland plans to attend Augustana University to study elementary education and Spanish, while Patrick will study neuroscience and psychology at a college yet to be decided.

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Regardless of where she ends up, Patrick said she's sure the skills she learned in speech and debate will be extremely beneficial and give her an advantage over many.

"Debate is one of those things that pops up everywhere," she said. "It's not always where you might expect it but it's always something you can use and apply somewhere else - it applies to so many other places in your life."

But for now, Hetland and Patrick are looking forward to the competition and visiting Florida. While there, they plan to visit the beach and spend time sightseeing, too.

"I've heard some good things from Madison," Patrick joked. "It's what you work for all year, so we're looking forward to it."

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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