Nelson becomes Maple Lake’s first state speech champ; Stejskal takes fifth in second trip


When Maple Lake junior Maddie Nelson qualified for the state speech meet, her goal was to make the finals in the discussion category and place higher than her sister, Lauren, did three years ago.
She exceeded her own expectations and became Maple Lake High School’s first state speech champion. Teammates Charlie Stejskal and Dylan Schlueter accompanied Nelson, with Stejskal placing fifth in extemporaneous speaking after not making the finals during his first trip to state two years ago as a freshman.
“I didn’t think that was going to happen,” said Nelson, who also received the Wells Fargo Spotlight on the Arts Award of Excellence. “It still feels unreal.”
For Stejskal, everything got a bit easier once he knew he had locked up a spot in the top eight in a very competitive category.
“As soon as I knew I made it to the finals, all the stress, weight and pressure was off,” Stejskal said. “Even if I did my worst speech, I’d be in the top eight. I just wanted to do my best. It was really tough competition and I was the only one in the finals who hadn’t been to state the previous year.”
For both Nelson and Stejskal, Saturday’s meet in Blaine was the culmination of months of preparation.
“Maddie contacted me at the end of June and said, ‘We’ve had a month off; it’s time to get back to work,’” assistant coach Mary Beth Barder said. “In July, we got together as a team and started to research. … Because of her perseverance and work ethic, she’s been rewarded.”
Barder stressed that, while medals are nice, the real rewards from speech competition come in the form of life skills.
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