David Marlow & Liliana Hughes

Long-time members of the Saint Peter High School speech team, David Marlow and Liliana Hughes, have been mainstays for Coach Erika Carlson’s squad for many years. The senior classmates have fared very well over the years in speech, including earning state tournament trips during their careers with David earning a fourth-place state medal in 2022.

“I am so proud of both Liliana and David,” Erika Carlson, SPHS speech coach, said. “I’ve had the pleasure to see both of them grow from seventh grade students to the young adults they are now. David and Liliana have developed into strong leaders for our team. They come to every tournament and practice with a drive to succeed. They are positive, confident, and passionate, and they use those qualities to inspire and support their teammates at tournaments. Every year I feel a twinge of sadness when I realize my senior competitors will be leaving our team at the end of the year. I know it will be especially difficult for me to say goodbye to these two, since they have been a huge part of our team for so long. However, they have bright futures ahead of them, and I hope they continue to show their passion and positivity throughout their daily lives.” 

The two recently took time to share their thoughts on what it has meant to be a part of such a well-regarded program like the SPHS speech team and how it has influenced their lives along with giving them a sense of self confidence they would not find with other activities.

The following is a Q&A profile with the two Saints’ senior speech standouts:

Q - Number of years in speech?

Liliana -
 I have been in speech for five years

David - My experience in speech and debate began as a toddler when I often babbled unintelligible paragraphs and sonnets that not even my parents could understand. I guess I’ve always had it in my blood. In other words, I have been in Speech since my seventh grade year and I have loved every second of it.

Q - What influenced you to sign up for the Saints speech program?

Liliana -
I had Mrs. Carlson (previous Ms. Gustafson) as my advisor in middle school, and she’s the Head Coach of the Speech team, and so she recommended it to me! I ended up loving it!

David - One Wednesday after English class, my former teacher and speech coach Mrs. Bailey DeVetter pulled me aside and gave me the rundown of what the activity was. Before the week was over, I was signed up to perform in the category of Duo Interpretation. Later, I learned my sister-in-law was a section finalist in Great Speeches and that my dad was a former state champion in Extemporaneous Speaking. So, I guess I’ve always felt like I’ve had pretty big dress shoes to fill.

Q - What long-term benefits do you feel speech team members gain from the program? 

-  I used to be scared of speaking in front of crowds, but speech really helps you to overcome that fear. Not only does speech help with public speaking, but because there are so many different categories to chose from, you really get to find your niche.

David - Every member of the speech team can agree that they have acquired confidence skills that are indescribably helpful and can only be truly experienced if you push yourself to perform in that first tournament. Believe it or not, this said confidence is far different from the confidence a sport can give you. For example, since speech has helped me with theater and vice versa, I am not afraid of standing in front of an audience and showing my true self. Not to mention job interviews, public speaking courses, and reading out loud have never seemed so much fun! Speech kids can write some killer English papers too.

Q - What are some of your favorite speech memories from your career?

- Some of my favorite memories include my first time at state, and my first time getting first place! Also, watching the team win team sweepstakes. Definitely some happy memories!

David - My favorite speech memory has to be the entire 2022 state tournament, where I placed fourth in the category of Creative Expression. Another undeniable highlight for Saint Peter High School was alum Eva Kracht winning the title of state champion in Original Oratory. I remember sitting at awards in the Eastview High School gym watching Eva. For those that do not know, you learn of your tournament placement at awards when they announce your name, going from eighth place all the way down to first. When her name was announced, I almost exploded. At that moment, I was so happy, proud, relieved, sad, hungry, and stressed because Eva’s trophy was glass and I didn’t want her to drop it.

Q - Who are some of the Saints speech team members, past and present, who have inspired you during your career?

- One Saints speech team member that comes to mind is Lauren Mayer. She was a senior on the speech team when I was in 9th grade, and I remember thinking she was so good at speech! She definitely motivated me to practice more, and even now she’s a speech coach so it’s even more motivating! 

David - In seventh grade, there was Saint Peter’s Rafat Solaiman, a senior in the category of Extemporaneous Speaking who won tournament after tournament and looked so cool doing it. After he graduated, my idol quickly became Josh Ellerbeck, who also won tournament after tournament in Humorous Interpretation. There’s also my sister Julia Marlow who I did Duo Interpretation with during my eighth grade year. We saw a lot of success by working hard on our speech every day. If there’s anyone that has inspired me the most, it’s Eva Kracht, Saint Peter’s 2022 state champion in Original Oratory. She’s taught me that it’s okay to have good days, bad days, and in the end rise above every challenge being proud of everything you’ve accomplished. After all, what’s more important in speech and debate than raising your voice for the voiceless?

Q - What do you enjoy most about being a part of this program?

- Getting to hype the team up, and getting to be proud of everyone. There’s nothing more fun than celebrating a win for someone, and I love watching my teammates excel! It makes bus rides even more fun too.

David - Through performing in the categories of Duo Interpretation, Creative Expression, Prose Reading, and Program Oral Interpretation so far, I’ve learned there is a topic of interest for everyone. For me especially, I love doing speeches about anything and everything that I’m passionate about. Whether it be persuasive, informative, or interpretative, all of it is a pleasure to bring to the stage. At the 2023 Eagan Wildcat Invitational, the Eagan head coach said during awards that what we do is such a blessing since in other parts of the world, people cannot do what we do. Growth in confidence also comes with that, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Q - What would you say to a younger student considering joining the speech program?

-  I say JUST DO IT! I know it can seem daunting, but if you push through to just one meet, I think a lot of people would realize how much fun it can be. You meet so many people from all over, and while the performing part is super fun, the speech community makes it all worth it.

David - In the words of prominent ancient philosopher Shia Labeouf, “just do it.” Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Believe me, if there’s one thing that speech has taught me: stress fizzles out. Stress fades away. Sometimes, all you have to do is begin performing and all that nervousness fades away. Sometimes, all it takes is holding that trophy at the end of the day to realize everything you’re doing is worth it. Word of advice: don’t let a measly crowd scare you. Scare them back.