More than 200 students from 12 different area schools flocked to Beatrice High School over the weekend to participate in the BHS speech competition on Saturday.

Performances began at 9 a.m. and the finals concluded around 3:30 p.m. Though Beatrice didn’t place among the top teams, speech coach Ed Ankrom praised BHS speech students for their work throughout the season.

“We’re halfway through the season, so there’s always room to grow,” Ankrom said. “The kids will get their feedback back on Monday and we will figure out what they need to change, adapt, practice. A lot of it comes down to the commitment of memorizing and maybe trying new things at the next meet.”

Ankrom has served as the head coach of the BHS speech team for the past 11 years, and he worked as the assistant head coach for three years before that. In that time, he has inspired students to branch out and get out of their shells.

BHS junior Chase Barber and senior Jouquin Fox perform poetry pieces at speech competitions. They said that participating in speech team has helped them develop important skills that they can use in the future, including enunciating their words, speaking with emotion and filling a room with sound.

Molly Hurley, a senior at BHS, has participated in speech since her freshman year.

“The reason I joined my freshman year was because I was in Mr. Ankrom’s—our speech coach’s--algebra class, and he kept pointing out how fun speech was,” Hurley said.

She decided to give it a try and ended up enjoying herself so much that she participated in speech all four years. Even after she graduates, Hurley intends to return to help judge future speech competitions.

Judges critique performances based on diction, presentation, eye contact and visual aids if they are used, Hurley said. They also judge how well students work together and their acting skills, as well as the content of their performances.

“There’s nine different categories of speeches you can give,” Hurley said. “There’s informative and entertainment, there are platform events, you have your humorous and serious prose, poetry, duet acting, OID (oral interpretation of drama)—which is a three to five-person acting group—and you have extemporaneous speaking, where you get your topic and write it within 30 minutes before you perform.”

Hurley has experience performing informative and entertainment pieces, and she has done duet acting, OID and persuasive speeches. She has been working on two speeches this season in the entertainment and persuasive categories.

“My favorite part is the thrill of performing,” Hurley said. “I love getting in front of total strangers and acting like a different person. It’s great.”