LEXINGTON – For Lexington seniors Sergio Ceja and Isabel Salas, Thursday was their last chance to shine as members of the LHS Speech team.
Shine they did as Ceja earned runner-up in the Class A Entertainment category and Salas took home fifth place in Class A Poetry.
Their efforts earned LHS a ninth place finish, which was the highest finish for a Class A school west of Lincoln.
“This was my second year going to state,” Ceja said, “so I was more confident and relaxed. I knew this was going to be my year to get into the finals.”
For Salas the experience was close to overwhelming, but she was able to calm her nerves and place fifth.
“It was intense for me,” she said. “It helped having friends come and support us.”
Head speech coach Heather Garrelts said she was proud of her two seniors. Ceja and Salas’ first year of high school was also Garrelts’ first year of teaching at LHS.
She said her emotions got the best of her when she found out they were going to the finals.
“This is my first group of kids that I have worked with for four years and I have to admit when I knew they were going to finals I cried a bit,” she said. “These are amazingly talented and bright students who have shown what hard work and dedication can do.”
Also making it to the state competition was sophomore Taylor Rae Bennett. LHS had only three students competing compared to some schools, which took 12 or more students.
Being able to place as a team and be the highest placing team west of Lincoln is a point of pride for the senior team members.
“It’s nice to be able to represent like that,” Salas said.
Garrelts said this season was tough because the team had a smaller number of participants than in past years, but she was happy with the strong finish.
It was a finish she attributed to her leaders, Ceja and Salas.
“Isabel and Sergio represent a dedicated leadership to the team,” she said. “They are, respectively, the president and vice president of the National Forensic League this year and work hard to not only improve themselves, but also support their team members as well as represent speech in the community.”