Carmen Cummings of Brainerd thought she was going to have a heart attack at her first speech meet.
Cummings had to give a speech on "Eloise" by Kay Thompson.
"I wanted to go home," said Cummings. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My mom was not going to take me home and she told me to get over it. She told me I would not die."
After it was over Cummings relaxed. And she never again was nervous to give a speech.
Six years later, after participating in more than 200 rounds of varsity competitive speech and winning more awards than any other senior on the team, Cummings was named Fine Arts Student of the Week.
Cummings joined speech in seventh grade, competing at the junior high and varsity levels. Cummings said she didn't know much about speech and her curiosity got the best of her and she joined.
Cummings' mother, Jan Cummings, is the speech coach.
"I remember my mom was never home on Saturdays," said Cummings. "When she got home she talked to my dad about the day's competition and I was usually home so I heard about it."
Cummings said she has had a good season, placing second or third in every meet but two. Her speech was based on one of the series from "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
The speech team will compete in its last regular meet Saturday before the section meet. Cummings plans to do a different speech for sections on a play by Ed Monk.
"I have to do a different speech because the ending on the speech I'm doing now doesn't fit," said Cummings. "It leaves you hanging and I need to get a new one."
Cummings said coming up with the speech and editing it to eight minutes is difficult. When she prepares a speech she tries to include as many characters as she can.
"This shows the degree of difficulty," said Cummings, which helps build more points with judges.
Cummings said she had a few characters in her humorous speech from "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Making people laugh is one of the fun parts of speech, said Cummings. She likes to do comedy and stays away from poetry.
Art focus: Speech
Art activities: Speech, Lincoln-Douglas debate, Student Congress, Knowledge Bowl and A Cappella Choir
Favorite subjects: Advanced Placement economics
Most memorable fine arts achievement: Being named a quarterfinalist at the state meet in debate last year
Artist most admired: Anna Quinlan
Favorite movie: "Good Will Hunting"
Favorite TV program: "The OC"
Favorite song: "Big Yellow Taxi"
Parents: Jan and Wayne Cummings of Brainerd
Being in speech has helped Cummings speak in public and helped her with her social skills.
"You have to sit through a lot of speeches and you learn to be nice and to respect other people's work," she said. "Everyone puts a lot of time and work into their speech."
Last week's competition in Itasca was held for students to compete for a chance to qualify for nationals. Cummings said she competed, but she couldn't qualify for nationals because she already qualified for nationals in debate. She said a student can only compete at nationals in one activity.
"I wanted to qualify for nationals in debate because you have more control in debate than you do in speech," said Cummings. "You can practice as much as you can for speech but your chances of getting better from now to June (when nationals is held) are slim.
"You can prepare more for debate."
Cummings plans to attend a four-year college to major in German and international studies.
Ashley Gruenwald, junior, art: Gruenwald's art adviser said, "Ashley is an incredible painting student who puts 150 percent into every project. Ashley is humble about her talent and deserves credit for all her dedicated work."
Chelsea Weiss, senior, Fifth Street Journal: The Fifth Street Journal adviser said Weiss has taken on an active role with the school newspaper. Even though Weiss is not an editor, the adviser said she frequently volunteers with the layout by fixing drafts or taking photos.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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