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Two young Minnesotans won top honors in the fiercely competitive National Speech & Debate Association's middle school tournament. Their prowess has made their home state proud.

More than 800 students from across the country recently competed in categories ranging from impromptu speaking to the Lincoln-Douglas debate and original spoken-word poetry. Just 24 of them were crowned national champions. Two of them attend Twin Cities schools. That considerable accomplishment is worth noting and celebrating.

Anuraa Venkat, representing Lake Middle School in Woodbury, took top honors in mixed extemporaneous speaking. That category involves speaking on current events with little preparation time. In this case, the "mixed" refers to combining international and domestic issues. Competitors are given a choice of questions to which to respond. They then have 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech — no small feat.

Minnesota's other champion, Maya Haugen, represented Orono Middle School. She bested competitors in the storytelling category. "Storytelling consists of sharing a story with an audience, performed as if the audience were a group of young children. The story must meet the theme of the tournament and not exceed five minutes," according to the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA). Again, no small feat.

California and Texas had the most winners in this prestigious competition, with seven and six champions, respectively. Minnesota was the only other state to have more than one. The tournament included students in grades 5-8 during the 2021-22 school year.

The NSDA's national tournament for high school students kicked off Sunday and runs through Friday in Louisville, Ky. About 5,400 students from across the nation are competing, with 199 Minnesota students representing 44 high schools.

Good luck to the state's older students. Minnesota's outstanding middle school competitors have set expectations high.