Freshmen aren’t usually the star players or participants on high school teams, but that wasn’t the case for this year’s Haines Glacier Bards.

Freshmen Tiaya Ruggirello and Sheeshao White took two pieces to finals at last month’s state Drama, Debate and Forensics competition in Anchorage.

Ruggirello and White claimed second place in duet acting with David Ives’s “Sure Thing.” The piece involves the chance meeting of two characters whose conversation is continually reset by a bell whenever one or the other says something negative.

“Both of them came in with this really good work ethic,” coach Amanda Randles said of Ruggirello and White. “They put the effort in themselves, so they’ve gotten polished and gotten ahead.”

Ruggirello also went to finals and took sixth place for her humorous interpretation of Dave Berry’s “Camping: Nature’s Way of Promoting the Hotel Industry.”

Besides Ruggirello and White, four other Haines students went to the state tournament: senior Kai Hays, sophomore Keegan Palmieri, sophomore Syrena Jackson and junior Rachel Haas.

Hays missed going to finals by one point with his dramatic interpretation piece, an excerpt from mass shooter Elliott Rodger’s graphic and hateful manifesto. Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others in 2014, and released a lengthy document describing his frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women and his contempt for racial minorities.

Coach Randles called the piece “powerful” and said Hays tried to find the subtleties of a character that is inherently so detestable.

“Doing a piece like that, you are going to get judged harder because people are going to be put off because of the content,” she said. “I think he took on possibly the most challenging piece of our entire team this year.”

Haas also tackled a challenging topic for her original oration, which is a persuasive speech written and memorized by the speaker. Haas’s oration, titled “Self Esteem,” attempted to persuade the audience that society doesn’t take self-esteem issues as seriously as it should and that it should put more effort into helping those with such issues.

“I got the idea when we were talking about suicide and self-harm awareness in school, and they didn’t really go into detail about what causes it, and I got to thinking that maybe low self-esteem can run deeper than that and cause all these problems later in your life,” Haas said.

Haas said she personally struggled with self-esteem and felt the issue needed to be addressed. Strangely enough, she felt more comfortable speaking candidly about her experiences in front of strangers.

“It’s actually easier for people I don’t know. It’s people I know that it’s hard to talk about it with; I don’t know why,” she said.

Haas has struggled throughout the season with the piece, especially on making the minimum time limit. She had the same problem at state. “I feel like I wanted to get my point across more than I wanted to win,” she said.

Coach Randles said she wants to encourage more students to craft original orations next year. At the beginning of the season, they had a brainstorm session about topics they care about.

“I have kids who are taking on sexual harassment (and) abortion,” she said. “I want kids doing more of their original stuff, because they have such interesting things to say.”