Lincoln East speech team sets state record, continues dominance

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- State football and basketball often grab the headlines every year, but one local high school team is continuing to dominate the competition, and set new records, through rhetoric.

The Lincoln East speech team won their 15th straight state title in March, becoming the first sport/activity in the state to ever win that many titles in a row.

The state competition itself has been happening since 1976 - 40 years. The Spartans have won it all 32 of those times.

And in 2016, they did it all with a brand new head coach.

"14 years of pressure, right," Nick Herink, an English teacher and first-year head coach for the speech team, said.

"That's a lot of expectations for any team."

But, he admits, it's what he signed up for.

"It was what I've always wanted to do," Herink said.

"I've always wanted to be a head speech coach, as nerdy as that sounds. I applied for it and I got it and it was sort of just a dream come true."

Herink also knew the road to 15 wouldn't be easy.

"I knew coming in that this was going to be a lot of work," Herink said, "there was going to be a lot of expectations, but these kids worked their tails off."

Fortunately, he only had to coach, but the thought of making history weighed on the minds of just about every student. It was a topic they acknowledged and talked about. However, Herink said their goal was never to win state, but to put themselves in the right position to be successful.

Carla Seravalli, a senior, said she thought a lot about the streak leading up to the Mar. 23 competition.

"I really stressed myself out," Seravalli said.

"But, when it came down to the actual tournament, I just focused on pushing it out of my head."

Another senior, Michael Mason, has been a part of the two most recent state titles.

"This one holds a little bit more significance," Mason said, "because now we have the undisputed record for most state champions, at least in the state of Nebraska."

And, as the dust settles on number 15, the pride can fully set in.

"I think the key to success is finding a way to inspire yourself to work hard," Mason said, "and if you can't inspire yourself to work hard, then you won't work hard, so you won't win."