Nelson Nails Top Award in Speech

Nelson becomes ninth person to earn Premier Distinction from the National Speech and Debate Association in LSE history


Cole McChargue, Copy Editor

As the light casts a spotlight, all of the watching eyes and listening ears seem to be more focused than usual. Anxiety rushes down every bone in the spine, and forgetfulness makes an appearance when it’s least needed. 

The judges in the audience watch the smallest of details, whether it be from the tone of voice or overall body posture. As soon as the final word is given, the judges reveal their score. For some, this series of events may seem unappealing and nerve racking, but for LSE junior Olivia Nelson, it is what she enjoys most.

 “I just like performing. It’s kind of an adrenaline rush when you’re up in front of a bunch of people. When you really nail a performance, it just feels so good,” Nelson said. 

Nelson has been participating in speech ever since sixth grade, and she won the National Speech and Debate Tournament in her first competitive year of speech. Although one could assume that Nelson is following in her parents’ footsteps, as they are speech coaches at Raymond Central High School after being involved in speech during their academic years, Nelson’s achievement sets her apart. 

She is the ninth person in LSE history to earn Premier Distinction from the National Speech and Debate Society. Nelson believes that earning Premier Distinction has helped her feel more confident in her abilities. 

“It feels really good. It feels really rewarding because I worked my tail off, so getting that distinction is really awesome,” Nelson said. 

To earn Premier Distinction, one must have a minimum of 1,500 points– earning about six points from every first place win in a competition. To understand the difficulty in another perspective, one would have to place first in 250 events to meet the requirement. 

Even though Nelson’s accomplishments have made history for LSE speech, points and awards aren’t the only thing that she brings home from meets. Speech Coach Tommy Bender said Nelson plays a gigantic role in the speech family at LSE. 

“She is a good leader both in what she does and also in her example. A big part of her example is that hard work pays off, and she is getting recognized for a lot of the stuff that she’s been doing,” Bender said. 

Nelson is one of the captains of the team and has participated in most of the speech events. Some of the events she has competed in are humorous acting, informative, entertainment, poetry, impromptu, persuasive, oral interpretation of drama (OID) and duo. Her favorite and main event is informative.

“I really like to do one that I can find the humor in,” Nelson said. 

All in all, getting this achievement has been years in the making, and Nelson isn’t the only one who believes her hard work  paid off. 

“She is interested in finding out all the why parts…If she feels like she’s struggling with something plushy, then she’ll work to fix that,” Bender said. “She also does a lot of great analysis of what is going on, whether that is her performance or whatever, she just stays at it. She’s just super talented.”