Wrenshall speech students perform at state, advance one to nationals

While speech may not be the first thing to come to mind with the word "extracurricular," it is just as prominent as any other activity in school today, especially in Wrenshall. This year Wrenshall's speech team sent four students to compete in th...

Four members of the Wrenshall Speech Team (from left, Adam Wolf, Alex DeVall, Masen Virginia and Delaney Belcastro) competed at the Minnesota State High School League State Speech Tournament earlier this spring and the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC), from May 13-15 in Denver, Colo. Contributed Photos

While speech may not be the first thing to come to mind with the word “extracurricular,” it is just as prominent as any other activity in school today, especially in Wrenshall. This year Wrenshall’s speech team sent four students to compete in the Minnesota State High School League State Speech Tournament. One of those four - Masen Virginia - will continue to compete this summer.

Virginia has been involved in speech since he was an eighth-grader, when he found out about the extracurricular from a fellow cast member in One Act play.  “I decided to give it a shot [and] I never looked back,” he said of his five years on the speech team.

For those unfamiliar with speech, it is “an amazing competitive activity that teaches discipline, hard work, and public speaking skills,” said Virginia. The Wrenshall senior further explained that Minnesota has 13 categories for competition, offering speech participants a wide range of options from Creative Expression to Discussion to Dramatic Interpretation.

What makes Virginia such a good member of the speech team, said coach Debbie Fenlason, is his drive.

“He works hard and has a way of feeling,” Fenlason said. “He can get into a character, and that’s amazing to see.”


As a part of his school’s speech team, Virginia participates in the Dramatic Interpretation category, in which he performs a monologue or a collection of monologues from a play.

“I have been lucky enough to find great success in it,” he said.

At the recent state speech tournament, the team ended up tying for an overall 10th place finish. Individually, team member Delaney Belcastro took third in Serious Interpretation of Prose while Virginia took second in Serious Interpretation of Drama. From the state tournament, the four participants went on to compete in the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC) May 13-15 in Denver, Colo.

The four students - Belcastro and Virginia, as well as Adam Wolf and Alex DeVall - all participated in different categories in Denver. The students each qualified to participate in both an individual and a partner event. For Wolf, that included Humor and Duet Acting. DeVall participated in Dramatic and Duet Acting, and Virginia was a participant in Dramatic and Duo Interpretation, as well as Belcastro.

“As its name indicates, the NIETOC tournament is a tournament of champions,” said Fenlason. “This means you must place very high on a consistent basis to qualify for the tournament.”

With 27 years of coaching speech under her belt, and six years with Wrenshall’s speech team, this year is an exciting one for Fenlason.

“I’ve been to NIETOC a few times before this, but I’m excited for the team this year,” she said.

It is clear that Belcastro, Virginia, Wolf, and DeVall all had a successful year in speech and a good coach to help them get to this point.


“NIETOC was an incredible experience,” Virginia said. “Being around so much talent and passion is a very humbling thing.”

He explained that NIETOC has a theme every year, and this year’s theme was “changing lives with the stories your pieces tell.” Virginia said the judges at the event stressed the importance of changing lives with their pieces: “No matter how small the change is!” he added.  

Of the 185 Dramatic Interpretation participants in Denver, Virginia placed 13th. He will head to Salt Lake City in June to participate in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament in Utah.

In order to get to this point, the speech team participated in the NSDA National Qualifying Tournament in March to qualify. While there, Virginia competed against 71 other Dramatic Interpretation participants, eventually earning himself a first place from 29 of the 31 judges he spoke for.

“We are hopeful that with a little more practice he can place higher,” Fenlason said of Virginia’s competition in Salt Lake City in June.

This event is the “real deal,” Virginia explained of his upcoming competition.

“But I will enjoy it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the people I’ll meet and the friends I’ll make at the tournament.”

So, what’s in store for this speech participant after this summer?


“I will be going to Illinois State University in the fall,” Virginia said. And the best part? “ISU has a speech team. I will be able to continue this amazing program on the collegiate level while I get a bachelor's degree in acting.”

As for some final words for the speech team he will leave behind when he heads to ISU, Virginia noted: “Telling a story and provoking thought should always be far more important than getting a first place medal - winning should only be a perk of it!”


Want to help?

The Wrenshall Speech Team is fundraising for its various trip expenses. Donations can be made by using the direct link: . The site is similar to GoFundMe, but designed for teams, which get a larger percentage of the funds, and none of the members are responsible to pay income tax on the donations.

Wrenshall senior Masen Virginia will compete in the National Speech and Debate Association tournament in Utah in June.

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