The end of May was a series of firsts for the Mount Pleasant High School Speech and Debate team…the first time to qualify for state in speech events, the first time to medal in those events, and the first time to claim a state championship. Team members Ja’Quacy Minter and Connelly Cowan travelled to Austin on May 28th to compete in the State Speech Meet on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. In the end, Cowan, a freshman, was named the 5A State Champion in Informative Extemporaneous Speaking while Minter, a graduate just four days prior, earned a 6th place medal in Poetry Interpretation.
Minter and Cowan had to advance out of both District and Regionals to earn their spots at the state meet. Minter was named the District Champion for the second consecutive year and then went on to claim the Regional Championship. Cowan placed 3rd at both the District and Regional meets. In both events, only twelve competitors in 5A across the state make it to Austin, an amazing accomplishment all by itself.
From the UIL Prose and Poetry Handbook, “The earliest interpretation event, ‘declamation,’ began in 1911 as the second oldest contest sponsored by UIL. It consisted of delivering published orations which promoted good citizenship, involved a story or event about the ‘making of America,’ or commemorated Texas heroes, history, and progress. These orations were delivered from memory. Not until 1950 was poetry a separate event in the UIL program, and not until 1959 was a manuscript required during the presentation. In 1961, declamation became prose interpretation, and for the first time, a list of five poets and five writers was prescribed by the League office.
Minter performed People You May Know from Category B, “Taking a Stand” in prelims and placed 3rd in his room to advance to the finals on day 2. In the final round he performed What’s Genocide from Category A, “Examining Our Changing World” to earn his 6th place state ranking.
“State was an amazing experience,” said Minter. “After months of fighting to get to that one moment, it was exactly the experience I was dreaming of.”
In Informative Extemporaneous Speaking, contestants draw five topics, select one, and have thirty minutes to prepare an informative speech on the chosen topic. Topics are based on current news events and include state, national and international levels chosen from the general areas of political, social, economic, educational and cultural interests. The time limit for the oral speech is seven minutes maximum. Cowan spoke on the topic “What has the Texas legislature accomplished during its current session?” in round one and placed 2nd in her room to advance to day 2. In finals, she spoke on “What steps are health officials taking to halt the spread of measles in the United States?” to claim the 5A state championship.
“Going to state in extemp was just recently a dream of mine,” said Cowan. “I never really liked extemp until this past January when my coach began pushing me to reach my full potential. I then began working hard and giving tons of practice speeches in hopes of making it to the state meet.”
Cowan continued, “Winning state was a complete shock. I was just happy to be there! It showed me that there is no limit to what I can do when I decide to work for it. I will always be grateful to Coach Morris for instilling confidence in me and practicing relentlessly with me.”
Minter and Cowan, along with teammates Taryn Thurman and Reid Pinckard, will wrap up the year at the NSDA National Tournament in Dallas starting on June 16th. They are coached by Cody Morris.
- Speech state Cowan State Champion
- Speech State Minter Morris Cowan—Minter and Cowan with the MPHS Speech and Debate Coach, Cody Morris