Halle Browning describes herself as someone who’s quiet; someone who doesn’t enjoy speaking in public. Put her in front of judges as a member of the Chaska High School speech team though and something changes.
“Because I write my own speeches, a lot of it is about the quality of writing, and the confidence in performing. The whole point in me joining speech was to help me grow in my public speaking. I feel like I’ve grown some, but I definitely feel like I can grow some more,” Browning said.
A junior in her third year on the speech team, Browning was one of four Chaska High School students to qualify for the state tournament on April 28 at Eastview High School in Apple Valley. In total, Eastern Carver County Schools had 12 students qualify, including eight from Chanhassen High School.
It wasn’t until nearly midnight that Browning was announced as state champion in the Great Speeches category; one of 13 categories judged at the Minnesota State High School League Championships.
“It was a lot of shock. I had a lot of step-forward moments where I expected to hear my name when they announced each place. When we got to the top-two, and I was left, I knew the other girl. I had seen her speech many times and she’s so good, so I figured I got second. When they announced her as second, I definitely had a moment of jaw drop. A ‘what – are you sure there was no mistake?’” Browning said.
An exciting moment indeed, though Browning would have been fine without all of the photos, applause, and standing ovation from the crowd.
Her winning category, Great Speeches, is where a student chooses a speech that was delivered by someone else and analyzes why the speech is considered to be great using a rhetorical model.
“You definitely talk with your coaches and figure out what each category is and what you are best suited for. There are a lot of speeches on YouTube. You start to watch them and then you find out what you might like as well,” Browning said.
Browning read a speech from Clarence Darrow, an American lawyer who became famous in the early 20th century. The speech was focused on the abolition of the death penalty.
“I loved it because it’s super sarcastic and just funny. It’s probably a hundred years old at this point, but it has this tongue-and-cheek humor that I love,” Browning said.
Browning is the seventh state speech champion from Chaska High School. Sydney Turner was the last Chaska student to win, in the Poetry category in 2021.
Browning said not being very talkative made her reluctant to try speech at first. As she began to learn more about it, the different categories from her older sister who was on the team, her interest peaked.
Two Chanhassen speakers also reached the finals in senior Garrett Maher and sophomore Alex Weiner. Maher was state runner-up with Weiner in eighth place in Informative Speaking.