SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa | Four years after boosting a fledgling speech program at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School, Sidney Hardy has earned all-state recognition.
For the seventh time.
Hardy, the senior class and National Honor Society president, earned all-state laurels on Saturday for "Goodbye," a speech she wrote and delivered before three judges, all whom gave her Division I (superior) marks.
One judge raised his hand to bid adieu to Hardy as she concluded her high school speech career by saying, "Goodbye," the conclusion of a 7-minute talk in which she used no notes or script.
Well, Hardy's career isn't quite yet done. She performs in the Iowa High School Speech Association Individual All-State Festival at the University of Northern Iowa on March 27. Hardy also earned all-state accolades in prose, but she was chosen as a non-performing entry in that category at all-state. She's earned all-state honors in both categories in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. She was also an all-stater as a junior in the large-group speech category, ensemble acting.
That's seven all-state nods for someone who dug in and helped breathe energy back into the program.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School didn't have much participation in speech four years ago when Hardy entered as a freshman. At that time, Principal Jason Klingensmith announced the hiring of a new English teacher who would coach football and speech. His name: Justin Smith. (Smith's 2015 football team reached the Class 3A semifinals. Last fall's squad finished second in its district and qualified for the state playoffs for the third consecutive year.)
"I coached speech for four or five years at Wakefield (Nebraska) High School before coming to Sergeant Bluff-Luton," Smith said. "But high school speech in Iowa and Nebraska are quite a bit different."
Smith worked with Hardy and two other freshmen that season. One has since moved away. The other? It's Shelby Hagerdorn, who helped Hardy provide leadership for the program. Hagerdorn on Saturday also earned a pair of all-state honors in literary program (performing) and poetry (non-performing).
All-state nominations were posted on the Iowa High School Speech Association Website late Monday afternoon. Hardy admitted that she and Hagerdorn repeatedly refreshed the organization home page from noon until the posting appeared around 4:15 p.m. The list showed Sara Jacques, of SB-L High School, was also nominated by judges for all-state, in storytelling.
"Speech has been my baby," Hardy admitted. "It's heart-breaking that it's about to end for me."
Thus, a farewell speech about the word and customs we observe in saying -- or not saying -- farewell.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in original oratory," said Hardy, daughter of Joe and Stacie Hardy of Sergeant Bluff. "Then I realized this last speech would be my goodbye to speech. I thought, 'Why not write about goodbyes?'"
Smith, who coached her that one season before turning over the reins to Kristi Quinn, who also directs the dramatic productions at the high school, wasn't surprised Hardy and Hagerdorn earned all-state nods.
"They're incredible," he said with a smile. "I knew four years ago that I needed to find someone else to take those two where they needed to go."
Sergeant Bluff-Luton this winter has enjoyed incredible success on multiple fronts. The girls' basketball team won a conference title, while the boys' team on Saturday finished as the Class 3A runner-up. The wrestling squad finished sixth in the state dual tournament.
The individual speech performers, meantime, held their own, putting in the time and energy to build up a program that on Saturday received an impressive five all-state nominations.
For the program leader, Hardy, it was a fitting way to say, "Goodbye."