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South Carroll High School teen takes second in national speech competition

Seventeen-year-old Robyn Anzulis wants to make a career out of speaking in front of people, persuading them that her arguments are sound.

She's wanted to be a lawyer since she was 8, said her mother, Cathy Anzulis.

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And since she was 13, she's been taking college courses — she expects to have taken enough credits to receive her associate degree before even starting her senior year at South Carroll High School. This summer, she'll be interning at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Anzulis is no stranger to success.

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But for the Woodbine teen, her most recent achievement was a "surreal" moment.

Anzulis took second place in the American Legion National Oratorical Contest, winning $17,500 in scholarship money along with the national runner-up honor. In each round of the competition, which took place April 22-23 in Indianapolis, orators delivered a rehearsed eight- to 10-minute address and a randomly assigned three- to five-minute oration on a constitutional topic, each without the benefit of notes and in front of a live audience and the judges, according to a news release from the American Legion.

Robyn Anzulis of Maryland at the American Legion Oratorical finals on Sunday, April 23, 2017 in Indianapolis, Ind. at the Wyndham Hotel. Photo by Clay Lomneth / The American Legion.
Robyn Anzulis of Maryland at the American Legion Oratorical finals on Sunday, April 23, 2017 in Indianapolis, Ind. at the Wyndham Hotel. Photo by Clay Lomneth / The American Legion. (Clay Lomneth / The American Legi/HANDOUT)

"It was just the most amazing thing. When I arrived that weekend, I was just happy to be there," Anzulis said. "Now all of a sudden I'm second place in the national finals. Being up on that stage — it was just really surreal."

The South Carroll High School junior has taken part in the oratorical competition three times now.

When she was a freshman and in Debate Club, Anzulis said her English teacher mentioned the competition to her.

"He brought it up that this might be something that I might be interested in, and I saw it and I was like, 'Wow I want to be a constitutional lawyer; this is for me,'" she said.

She made it to states her first year with her speech "The Free First," which was about the First Amendment and freedom of religion.

Her second year didn't go as well, she said.

"I had a little bit of trouble, lost at the county level," Anzulis said.

But she came back and reworked that speech and her smaller speeches, she said.

And it paid off.

South Carroll High School Principal Diane Cooper said via email she's thrilled for Anzulis and that the junior is a "great representation of South Carroll High School."

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"It in no way surprises me that she was able to do this — seek out the opportunity on her own, follow up and practice. This is just the type of person that Robyn is — a go-getter and great at whatever she puts her mind to," Cooper said.

Anzulis has loved reading and writing since she can remember. Public speaking is a chance to take an idea, and spread it, she said.

"I love that I can take an idea, take a thought, take something that I'm passionate about, and put it out there and try and make other people passionate about it too," she said.

This year's speech was about freedom of speech on college campuses. It's something she's passionate about, she said, and wanted to communicate to a larger audience.

It's not always easy getting on stage though, Anzulis said. It takes a while to become comfortable up there, she said. The first few minutes she really has to focus on trying to keep her nerves in check.

"It's very difficult, it's hard to get up there and put yourself out there," she said. "Once you get into it, then it's just about communicating the message."

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