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GEORGE, Iowa | Brenda Sandbulte coached one group to a "banner effort" at the Iowa High School Speech Association All-State Festival last Saturday at the Iowa State Center in Ames.

She aided another group in the process.

Sandbulte, the 24-year speech coaching veteran at George-Little Rock High School, sprinted from the balcony to the main stage to accept the banner awarded to her school for the Television Newscasting entry that was deemed tops in all of Iowa.

"I had to run down three flights of stairs and our kids from George-Little Rock, who were up in the balcony, kept saying, 'She's coming! She's coming!'"

Her swift arrival have the students at G-LR joking about Sandbulte becoming a track coach as well.

The banner is the second such won by thespians at the high school based in George, Iowa. Ten years ago, Sandbulte's Radio Broadcasting team was judged to be the cream of the crop in Iowa, the best out of approximately 800 or so entries that began the season.

The 2016 banner for the top Radio Broadcasting team in the Iowa high school speech ranks went to East High last Saturday, won by the quintet of Emily Blatchford, Hanna Riley, Alexis Mattas, Emily Miranda and Anna Magana.

Coach Wendy Bryce of East wasn't with her Radio Broadcasting team as it prepared to present its CD to the judge on Saturday, as she was watching her son perform at that time. So, she wasn't able to offer assistance when the performers noticed their recording wouldn't work.

Enter Sandbulte and her rescue effort.

"The girls from East had their CD player, but the chord had broken," Sandbulte said. "Wendy's husband (Risty Bryce, who helps coach East thespians) had told the girls to try to find someone who had equipment they could borrow. They found me and I said they could use our equipment."

The CD worked and the East High Radio News team ended up earning the Critic's Choice, or what amounts to a state championship in that category. It was East's eighth Critic's Choice honor since 1997.

"Schools helping schools is what the Iowa High School Speech Association is all about," Wendy Bryce noted.

Quick thinking like that is what speech helps foster, said Sandbulte, whose program also won the Iowa High School Speech Association's "Individual Sweepstakes Award" in 2002, an honor for having the most individual entries at the all-state festival. It is likely the smallest school to ever win that award.

"I believe in recruiting kids for speech because I know what it does for them," she said.

The activity made state champions and believers out of seven individuals who put their heads together for a winning Television News entry based on the "48 Hours" mystery show. The George-Little Rock students used their newscast to examine the plight -- and death -- of the family farm.

They separated the "mystery" into a few suspects, ranging from big business to Washington, D.C., to land prices, livestock prices and technological efficiencies in farm equipment.

"It was important because we live in a farming community and it affects everyone here," said Conner Jurrens, a senior.

Two commercials were produced for the newscast, and both offered a dab of fiction and humor. The first featured a work boot from Nike; the second, a line of shampoo products, one for each presidential candidate.

For Donald Trump, for example, the shampoo promised to, "put a wall between your scalp and dandruff."

"Our news was really solid throughout the segment," Jurrens said, who, like his teammates, believed George-Little Rock had as good a shot as any to bring home the banner, one reserved for the best segment in the eyes of the judge, a professor of communications at Wartburg College.

"I had kind of figured that the era of small schools winning this was over," Sandbulte confided. "Production-wise, there are schools like us that face some challenges."

Senior Clarissa Gerken said she believed G-LR had a chance when the judge asked to speak with Sandbulte following the airing of their "48 Hours" piece.

When the day wrapped up with the awards ceremony, the collective heartbeat at George-Little Rock increased as the judge referenced a small school doing big things with limited resources. He then announced that George-Little Rock was his choice for best in show and, thus, the winner of the esteemed banner.

Five of the seven G-LR participants screamed in amazement as Sandbulte raced from the balcony to the stage.

"I was just dizzy," said Kayla Gerken, a freshman.

"I couldn't stand up," said Clarissa Gerken. "I sat there and cried."

Jurrens grabbed the banner as they left Ames. He folded it and kept it on his lap the entire ride home.

Fellow students texted and called to congratulate the winners. Many students on Monday walked in to Sandbulte's room just to look in awe at the state title banner.

This fabric trophy, like the one at East, will remain in the high school until the 2017 all-state festival. At that time, one student from George-Little Rock, and one from East, will cart their respective banners onto the stage as the curtain rises on yet another all-state large-group speech festival.

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