Ed Kappeler just completed his 15th year at Pacific High School and his 10th year as speech director.
On a whim, he entered his students in speech competition and was surprised when Pacific High students finished third in conference competition. It seemed an unlikely event for their first time competing. But it sparked a drive that has kept Pacific High in competition.
“Five years ago we started to become pretty good,” Kappeler said.
Now, encouraging his students to compete against their peers in other schools has become a passion.
At the May 16 MVR-III school board meeting, Kappeler explained that five PHS speech students have qualified for state competition: Trish Baker, Lexi Huesgen, Luke Myers, Brady Smith and Leslea Walter.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. During 2011-12 Kappeler guided his students through 22 conference, district and state competitions.
Leslea Walter, a junior, won the Four Rivers Conference championship in storytelling; the South Central District championship in storytelling and qualified for the state tournament
She advanced to the state finals where she placed third, the highest finish ever by a PHS student in an Individual event at the state tournament
She is the fifth PHS student to advance to the state finals in the last six years. Justine Chorvat, Colton Richardson, Shannon Lefler, and Mike Howard are the others.
Trish Baker, a sophomore, won the South Central District championship in prose reading and qualified for the state tournament.
She is the second PHS sophomore to win a district championship. Luke Myers was the other in 2010.
Luke Myers, a senior, won the Four Rivers Conference championship in both dramatic interpretation and poetry reading, the South Central District championship in dramatic interpretation and qualified for the state tournament.
Myers placed second at the South Central District tournament in poetry reading and qualified for the state tournament.
He is the third PHS student to qualify for the state tournament three times. Colin Busby and Kelly McDevitt are the others.
Myers is the fourth PHS student to win two career district championships. Colin Busby, Kelly McDevitt, Colton Richardson are the others.
Lexi Huesgen, a senior, and Brady Smith, a junior, won the Four Rivers Conference championship in humorous duet acting. He won the South Central District championship in Duet Acting.
Other PHS students who won Four Rivers Conference championships this year are Michelle Grinstead in radio speaking, Brady Smith in humorous interpretation and Jake Schultz and Leslea Walter in dramatic duet acting.
PHS won seven of the 10 conference championships in individual events, all four conference meets this year and the overall team conference championship. In addition, PHS placed first at the preseason St. James Tournament, won four of the nine district championships in individual events and placed third out of the 23 schools that competed at the district tournament.
Some 118 schools competed at the state tournament. Schools are not ranked at the state tournament —only individual performers.
Speech is the only MSHSAA sport or activity that does not divide schools into classes. All participating schools compete against each other regardless of size.