HATTIESBURG, MS - Taking the stage in Birmingham, Alabama, Hattiesburg High school seniors Derek Collins and Kerrington Anderson created more than just a captivating performance. They carved out a path, becoming national champions in speech and debate.
"We were just overwhelmed with excitement," said Collins.
Last weekend the duo competed in the National Speech and Debate Tournament going up against students from across the country. It's a competition they've done before, but this time their roles thrived in the spotlight
"The work that we put in throughout the whole entire year, that's what got us to the point to get to the final round," said Anderson.
They competed in what's known as duo interpretation, which basically means they get ten minutes to perform a play and it comes with some rules.
"The key to duo is you can't look at your partner or touch them. So, that's the tricky part, but after you get in the practice of doing it, it gets pretty easy," said Collins.
It's a system these two have perfected, thanks to dedication and lots of late night rehearsing.
"In order to have a duo, you have to have a good relationship with your duo partner and y'all have to have a good connection," said Anderson.
Not only did that connection pay off with a win, it marked the first time a Mississippi school brought home the championship in a main speech event.
"We were honored to be able to be recognized as the national champions, not only for ourselves, but for our city as well," said Collins.
On stage, the pressure was on as more than a thousand people had their eyes on two Mississippi boys, who say it's important to never let them see you sweat.
"I actually skipped over a couple of lines on stage and my partner was there just keep it going and it flowed like nothing ever happened," said Anderson.
They say it's a moment they'll never forget, especially since many speech and debate students never get the opportunity.