SIOUX CITY | Emily Hageman took the microphone at the start of a chapel service on Tuesday at Siouxland Christian High School in Sioux City. She had great news to share.
Siouxland Christian, which didn't have a large-group speech team two years ago, sent seven entries from the district to the state festival at Le Mars High School in Le Mars, Iowa, on Saturday.
"All seven entries earned Division I (superior) ratings," Hageman said.
There was more. "Six of those entries will be honored at the All-State Festival," she said, noting that four will perform and two were designated in the non-performing class. State statistics reveal that just 5 percent of those groups performing at the district level (the first round of competition) eventually land on the all-state dais.
Monday was a big afternoon for high school speech programs across Iowa. Late that day, thousands of thespians were glued to their laptops and phones, awaiting word from the Iowa High School Speech Association, which posted all-state nominees on its website, per tradition.
And nowhere was the news greeted with such fanfare as it was at Siouxland Christian, where a school record was set with each scroll of the computer mouse that afternoon.
One-Act Play: All-State. Ensemble Acting: All-State. Group Improvisation: All-State. Short Film: All-State.
Other Northwest Iowa schools had more, but not many. Coach Wendy Bryce's East High program, for example, qualified eight all-state groups, including three in musical theater alone. And, Spencer High School, for the 43rd year in a row, will have All-State thespians, the only speech program in Iowa to enjoy such a remarkable streak, all of it done under the guide of Larry Untiet. Spencer had seven performance award winners at the state festival.
A list of Northwest Iowa groups accompanies this column.
At Siouxland Christian, Hageman was practically pinching herself, as if dazed in a dream. "This is an amazing experience," she said.
Siouxland Christian junior Daniel Ketchelos typified the experience at the small school. Ketchelos said the prospect of creating a short film for the speech category by that name dawned on him during September. He fashioned a list of topics and winnowed it by October before consulting with his coach. He chose a theme based on isolationism and how one deals with losing someone close.
"The one idea I centered on involved a character named Olivia, who loses her boyfriend in a car accident," he said.
Ketchelos, 17, wrote a short film, "Left Alone." He then assigned the script to eight actors and actresses, peers at his school. He reached out to friend Elijah Stocking who could handle a boom mic while Ketchelos filmed scenes he directed.
"We shot it all on December 19, a day we were on break from school," he said. "We shot from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and shot it all at Pierce Street Coffee Works and in Grandview Park."
Ketchelos, whose dream job would involve directing film, put it all together using equipment rented from the East Coast. The total bill: $369.72.
"I shot it all with my camera and then edited it with Adobe Premier on my laptop," he added.
And while Ketchelos wrote his short film, Hageman wrote the school's All-State efforts in one act play and ensemble acting. Hageman also wrote a second ensemble acting entry that was deemed All-State in the non-performing classification.
The all-state berths represent uncharted territory for Siouxland Christian, a non-denominational Christian school whose enrollment in grades 9-12 numbers 75. Hageman said she still can't believe her program, still in its relative infancy, is being mentioned with the likes of East, Spencer, MOC-Floyd Valley and Le Mars Community High School.
"My heart was pounding super hard when I looked to see the All-State list," Ketchelos said. "When I saw it (his short film listed), it blew my mind!"
"Even to get one entry to perform at all-state would have meant everything to me and these kids," Hageman said.
To have four? With another pair getting All-State bids as well? The coach shook her head and said, "This is the most rewarding thing that's ever happened to me."