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SIOUX CITY -- Statistics show that people fear public speaking more than they fear dying.

Well, what if you need to die at the end of your speech?

This is something that Mikendra Lynn will experience, firsthand, when she and her East High School classmate Brittany Todd perform a 10-minute excerpt from playwright Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning "'night, Mother" at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament, June 17-22 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"I play the daughter in the piece while Brittany portrays my mom," Mikendra said. "It's a really gut-wrenching piece."

"It's even more difficult for me since I have to react to my daughter's death," Todd added.

Lynn and Todd, both East seniors, are going to the National Tournament after securing a spot during the West Iowa National Qualifying tournament that was held at Valley Southwoods High School, in West Des Moines, on Feb. 9.

"The girls will be going to Nationals in the Duo Interpretation category, which means they'll be doing a dramatic reading from a memorized script," East High School debate and drama coach Marissa Behan said. "In order to qualify for Nationals, students have to be in the top two of their category in the qualifying tournament. That means Brittany and Mikendra did an awesome job."

While this will mark Lynn's first experience at the Nationals, Todd also made it there last year.

This year will mark East senior Olivia Tidwell's third appearance at the national tournament. Qualifying in the Informative category, Tidwell will be giving a 10-minute speech on the role late night comedians play in changing political opinions.

"I love John Oliver and Stephen Colbert and hope to, some day, marry Jon Stewart," Tidwell said with a smile.

In addition to writing and memorizing her presentation, she also made oversize visual aids to augment her speech.

With a pastor as a dad and a teacher for a mom, Tidwell always knew the benefit of becoming a communicator. In fact, she became involved in a Toastmasters Club as a middle school student.

On the other hand, Todd got involved in speech and debate after playing roles in school and local theater productions.

"I love acting," Todd, the daughter of a teacher and a school principal, said. "Acting allows you to be someone that you're not. It allows you to step inside someone else's shoes for a while."

Lynn nodded as Todd spoke. 

While boasting a similar theatrical background as Todd, Lynn said there is another reason for being loquacious.

"Since my family has moved around a lot, I've literally never been in the same school district for more than two years," she explained. "When you're usually the new girl, you need to be more outgoing and aggressive."

Lynn said she'd like to someday study acting at New York's famous Julliard School. For Todd, she'd like to work in the medical field.

Tidwell said she'd like to pursue a career in politics or working at an international nonprofit organization.

But unlike her classmates, she didn't come from a theater background.

"I like public speaking for an entirely different reason," Tidwell said. "I don't mind being the center of attention."

That is the self-confidence that Tidwell will need as she, Lynn and Todd compete with 3,500 of the best high school students participating in this year's National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament.

"When you're in competition with speakers from all across the country, you bring your 'A' game," Tidwell said. "This is exactly what we plan on doing in Fort Lauderdale in June."

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