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FHS speech duo going to nationals

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont speech duo of Tabitha Thatcher and Isabell Geiger once again have qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament. The duo will participate in Nationals, which will be held virtually June 13-19.

Fairmont High School co-speech coach Kathleen Walker said, “It’s usually held some fun place, but last year was the first time it was virtual and this year it will be again.”

Last year’s was supposed to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and this year’s was slated to take place in Des Moines, Iowa.

Thatcher and Geiger qualified for Nationals last year and participated virtually. Last year at Nationals there were more than 200 duo teams, and Geiger and Thatcher placed in the top 30.

This season speech competitions have taken place virtually. Fairmont High School speech students meet at the high school and perform their pieces in separate classrooms. Under normal circumstances, they would travel together to a different high school in the state and perform in front of other students and judges.

Over the last year, Thatcher and Geiger have performed and recorded their routine in separate rooms because of the pandemic. While the rest of the speech students perform their pieces during live rounds on an online platform, the duo has been asynchronous.

“It’s been hours and hours of devoting their time to make this perfect. This product of a 10-minute duo has hours and hours behind it,” Walker said.

“Our set-up is so much. We have a laptop with a webcam and a different microphone that’s attached,” Thatcher explained.

“Mr. Walker is our champion. He’s always setting up our technology and getting us what we need,” Geiger said of co-speech coach Erik Walker.

The NSDA Southern District National Qualifying Tournament was held March 11-13. Thatcher and Geiger placed second.

“You might think it’s just schools in greater Minnesota, but it’s all the way up to Eagan High School, which is one of the top schools in the nation in speech and debate,” said Kathleen Walker.

There are three Eagan duos, along with Fairmont’s Geiger and Thatcher, that are going to Nationals.

“To get out of Minnesota and go to Nationals is so challenging because Minnesota is so good at speech,” Walker shared.

Former Fairmont High School speech members who have made it to Nationals include Miles Duffy, Eric Noll and Anagha Komaragiri, who also was a two-time participant.

Thatcher and Geiger both joined speech as 7th graders. Students are not allowed to take part in duo during their seventh grade year, but in eighth grade, the two teamed up for duo and have been together ever since.

However they met each other long before speech began. They participated together in Children’s Theater as well as youth soccer.

“When we were in seventh grade, we watched some older students do duo and thought it was so cool and made a pact to do it together the next year,” Geiger said.

“We went into speech wanting to do duo,” Thatcher added.

When asked what drew them to duo, Thatcher said she thinks it was because it allowed them to do something together.

“It’s pretty unusual for people to do duo for so long. But we started together and grew together,” Geiger said.

When the duo joined speech for fun back when they were 7th graders, they never imagined they would end up where they are now.

“Since 7th grade, we were so in awe of the seniors then and thought they were so cool and we couldn’t wait to be that old, but now that we are, it’s sad to leave. But it’s fun to see how far we’ve come and how far our team has come,” Geiger said.

“It’s kind of surreal. We idolized so many of the seniors and thought ‘if only we could be them.’ Now we’re here and we’re going to Nationals and it almost doesn’t feel real. If little 8th grade me knew this would happen, she would have a heart attack,” said Thatcher.

While the normal speech season ends soon, Geiger and Thatcher know that they have Nationals to look forward to yet.

“I’m really trying to feel these days go as slow as I can and enjoy our last month and then virtually go to Nationals with them. It’s been so fun to see their creativity and how they have made this work. They just do it very, very well,” Walker said.

As for next year, Geiger will attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and Thatcher plans to attend Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.

To conclude Fairmont High School’s speech season, sub-sections take place on Monday, sections are April 16 and state is April 24. All will be held virtually.

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