By Tim Leeds
JOPLIN Next weekend will be the J-I Rams' first opportunity to participate in a state speech tournament in three years, said Kevin Shellenberger, the J-I speech coach.
Shellenberger, who took a job as English teacher at Joplin-Inverness High School in December of 1998, said the school has not fielded a speech and drama team since the 1996-97 school year.
He said he tried to form a team last year, but since it was so late in the season nothing came of it.
Last October, he said, he offered the opportunity again. This year he did have a response.
Four students are participating on the J-I team, Shellenberger said. He said they represent all three areas of the competition, with Ivan Smith participating in humorous solo, a drama event, Joe Kvernum in serious oral interpretation, a speech event, and Jon Cady partnered with Sarah Gjesdal in team debate.
Shellenberger said he participated in speech and drama in high school and wanted to give his students the same opportunity.
"I think it's good we offer extracurricular activities that are intellectual in scope as well as athletic events," he said.
Shellenberger, a graduate of Havre High School and MSU-Northern, said he is proud of his team for the hard schedule they put in this year.
"They had to get up at two or three in the morning to go to some of these meets," he said. "We've put almost 2,900 miles on in transportation."
Shellenberger said they've gone to some pretty big meets for a first year program, including Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula. He said most have been one day events, but they have stayed for two days for some, and he intends to spend the night in Havre for the state tournament next weekend.
Shellenberger said he's confident the new team will continue.
"The students are interested," he said, "and if they're interested they will have a team, even if I'm not here."