MARSHALL - The National Forensic League has been giving youth a voice since 1925. Recently, the outstanding voices of the 2009-10 Marshall High School speech team were heard loud and clear amongst the nation's best.
MHS head speech coach Rick Purrington received a letter Thursday stating that last year's team earned a significant recognition by the NFL.
In the letter, NFL Executive Director J. Scott Wunn outlined the fact that the Marshall chapter had placed in the top 10 percent of NFL chapters nationwide and was deserving of the prestigious 100 Club membership.
"This award means a lot," said Purrington, who will be heading into his fourth season at Marshall in November. "It means that we have a lot of hard-working and talented kids. They deserve it."
To be eligible for the 100 Club award, a speech team must be a member of the NFL and attain at least 100 members and degrees.
"Most teams are members of the National Forensic League," Purrington said. "Every time a student speaks, that student earns points, depending on the rank that student has in a round. We accumulated enough points or degrees to be in the elite group."
Purrington stressed that two things need to happen in order for a team to reach that particular honor society status.
"You need a good size team of kids who are dedicated and you need kids that are good at what they do," he said. "We have a lot of talented kids who love speech."
According to the NFL, more than 112,000 high school and middle school students, representing more than 2,800 high schools and close to 100 middle schools, participated in speech and debate and were NFL members in 2009. Earning membership in the prestigious 100 club reflects the students' high ability to communicate, research, listen, write and organize, which are all essential life skills.
"Our kids do some amazing things against some good competition," Purrington said. "Anytime you can get national recognition, that's pretty cool."
Although this is the first time Purrington has led the Tigers to achieve national recognition, it's not his first time one of his teams received the 100 Club award.
"We got the award when I was at Eastview High School in Apple Valley," Purrington said. "They reached it there a few times, so I know what it means and how special it is."
Purrington coached the Eastview speech team from 1999-2007 before taking over at MHS. Last season, the Tigers had record-setting performances, including the advancement of 13 students to state, the most MHS has ever sent. Five of those 13 took home hardware.
Marshall's Eric Deutz was crowned a state champion in Creative Expressive last year. Emily Jensen and Marcela Sanchez-Aizcorbe finished seventh and eighth at state in Original Oratory, while Jeff Paskach took seventh in Humorous and Courtney Otto finished eighth in Prose.
"We did some good stuff last year," Purrington said. "I don't know if we can repeat this year, but we have a really good group of hard-working kids back. We also have a smart and talented sophomore class that had a very successful season as freshmen last year. We're excited about the young ones."
While Purrington and the speech team will begin preparations for the upcoming season soon, there's still the issue of where to put the new plaque. Since the construction of the new MHS building, the fine arts department is still awaiting trophy cases to display their excellence.
"We haven't gotten the plaque yet," Purrington said. "They're still engraving it. Hopefully it'll be here soon, but we still don't have a case to put it in yet. We have to raise money for it."
While the athletic cases by the gymnasium are already starting to fill up with accolades, the band, choir, speech and theater programs are patiently waiting to show off their accomplishments. Regardless, Purrington said the team will continue to give it their best effort.
"I'd say we have a good chance to repeat the award if the kids work hard," Purrington said. "You need a lot of talent and a little luck to be in the top 10 percent nationally."