Purchase photos

Hays High DECA dominates at state

3/10/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A phone call from Mackenzie Lewis the afternoon of March 2 brought Jessica Stoecklein to tears.

They both cried together two days later when Stoecklein returned that call to her friend and classmate at Hays High School.

But this time was different. These were tears of relief, disbelief and celebration.

Stoecklein's message Tuesday was informing Lewis their entrepreneurship project won first place at the State Career Development Conference in Overland Park, qualifying them for nationals May 3 to 6 in Atlanta.

Those HHS seniors are two of 12 students in Shaina Prough's marketing classes to qualify for the 2014 International Career Development Conference in Georgia, and theirs was one of four state championship performances for Hays High.

Prough has watched numerous students win state titles in her 15 years as Hays High's DECA sponsor. But this one was special.

What made Stoecklein so upset Sunday was Lewis' news she wouldn't be able to present at state with her partner.

The HHS contingent left town March 1 for Overland Park, and Lewis stayed behind in Hays to practice with Jackie Creamer's Vision Dance Team, of which she is a member.

Lewis' dance team was scheduled to participate last week in a regional competition in Oklahoma, so she planned to travel to Overland Park after practicing with her team March 1.

But on that day, Lewis had to call Stoecklein and tell her partner she wouldn't be able to make the trip because of icy road conditions.

They both knew what that meant. Stoecklein would have to go it alone at state.

Stoecklein said she rewrote her note cards and learned Lewis' part of the project in two hours and gave the presentation alone. That in itself was impressive, Prough said.

"For Jessica to overcome that last-minute change showed she has a lot of determination," Prough said.

But the best was yet to come.

Stoecklein said she was excited when the top eight of her division were called up on stage, and their placings were announced from eighth to first. The top two qualify for nationals.

"When they got to third and they hadn't announced me yet, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, we're going to nationals,' " she said. "Then when they announced the second-place winner and it wasn't me, I was really excited."

Another HHS senior who won a state title in his final try was Landon Munsch, with his international business plan, a category in which Hays High swept the top two places. Classmate Vince Bailey placed right behind Munsch to qualify for nationals as well. And two other seniors joining them will be Shawn Herrman and Aaron Kreutzer, who finished second in business services operations research.

The other first-place state winners for HHS were two teams, each comprised of three juniors -- Ethan Waddell, Bailee Leiker and Summer Smith in the creative-marketing project category, and Trystan Knapp, Allyson Flax and Rylie Rowland for their community-service project.