Glossophobia is the 10 cent word better known as the fear of public speaking. In most studies, public speaking ranks No. 1 on people's biggest fear list. Death is No. 2.

As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, "This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

Speaking of eulogies, River Falls 16-year-old Kiley Hoitomt had to give one at her dad's funeral this past summer. Brian Hoitomt passed away in June after a three-year battle with leukemia.

Going from a Seinfeld joke to the death of a friend and his daughter giving the eulogy was intentional. That's exactly the way Kiley Hoitomt wants it.

"I want people to ask about my dad and keep his story alive," Kiley said. "Everybody goes through grief, so let's talk about it. Let's help each other and bring us closer together."

Game on

Grief can be like a big brick wall with imprisoning loneliness and shackles of silence. Has it been enough time? What should I say? The easiest thing, for many people, is to not say anything at all. It's a mindset Kiley is trying to change and she's doing it in the arena called high school forensics.

The River Falls High School Forensics team has won the last two state championships and they'll be trying for the trifecta this week.

Forensics is competitive public speaking, but according to head coach Kim Miller, it's a mixture of acting, communicating, empathizing, and expression.

"You have to start with a story to tell," Miller said. "But then you have to find how it connects to you inside yourself."

Kiley and teammate Emily Odegard will compete in the Group Interpretation competition. Their subject is grief and how to deal with it. They mixed excerpts from "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness and parts from Kiley's eulogy about her dad.

I've seen it on video and it is absolutely amazing. If Vegas was running gambling spreads on who wins this week, this category would be off the board. It's that good. I don't want to take anything away from Odegard. Her performance is the "awe-" to Kiley's "some," but this story is about Kiley.

"She just bores into your soul in the best way possible," Miller said about Kiley, "And you're just along for the ride on this journey with her and it's a remarkable one."

Light and energy

Kiley is a self-proclaimed laid-back girl who turns 17 today, April 10, but she says, "When I get on stage, this light goes on and I can become this different person."

Kiley has flipped the switch and mindset on public speaking. She has fears just like everyone else, but she has the innate ability to take those fears and shake them up like a can of Coke. When the lights turn on, fear is seemingly transformed and out gushes energy and connectivity.

"The best things in life come from connections we make when we come together," she said. "I have such a strong faith and know my dad is here and I know how proud he is of me and that's what keeps me motivated but also keeps me grounded."

In the movie "Rambo: First Blood Part II," Colonel Trautman describes John Rambo to CIA Officer Murdock saying, "What you choose to call hell, he calls home."

Kiley is the girl Rambo of Wildcat Forensics and public speaking.

"We kind of laugh at that because we do this for fun," Kiley said. "I love to learn about what other people have experienced and I love to tell people my stories."

Brian Hoitomt was a mountain of a man, as big as he was kind. He was also one heck of a baseball player back in the day.

"My dad was this big sports guy and acted like he didn't like my theater and musicals," Kiley said. "But when we got home, I could hear him in the shower singing along. He loved whatever I loved."

Any dad with a daughter can connect with Kiley on this story. It's not about what you're doing or where you're going; it's about the shared connections. Those are the best things in life.

Why else would both Brian Hoitomt and myself watch "The Bachelor" with our daughters? Glossophobia is the 10 cent word better known as the fear of public speaking. In most studies, public speaking ranks No. 1 on people's biggest fear list. Death is No. 2.

As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, "This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

Speaking of eulogies, River Falls 16-year-old Kiley Hoitomt had to give one at her dad's funeral this past summer. Brian Hoitomt passed away in June after a three-year battle with leukemia.

Going from a Seinfeld joke to the death of a friend and his daughter giving the eulogy was intentional. That's exactly the way Kiley Hoitomt wants it.

"I want people to ask about my dad and keep his story alive," Kiley said. "Everybody goes through grief, so let's talk about it. Let's help each other and bring us closer together."

Game on

Grief can be like a big brick wall with imprisoning loneliness and shackles of silence. Has it been enough time? What should I say? The easiest thing, for many people, is to not say anything at all. It's a mindset Kiley is trying to change and she's doing it in the arena called high school forensics.

The River Falls High School Forensics team has won the last two state championships and they'll be trying for the trifecta this week.

Forensics is competitive public speaking, but according to head coach Kim Miller, it's a mixture of acting, communicating, empathizing, and expression.

"You have to start with a story to tell," Miller said. "But then you have to find how it connects to you inside yourself."

Kiley and teammate Emily Odegard will compete in the Group Interpretation competition. Their subject is grief and how to deal with it. They mixed excerpts from "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness and parts from Kiley's eulogy about her dad.

I've seen it on video and it is absolutely amazing. If Vegas was running gambling spreads on who wins this week, this category would be off the board. It's that good. I don't want to take anything away from Odegard. Her performance is the "awe-" to Kiley's "some," but this story is about Kiley.

"She just bores into your soul in the best way possible," Miller said about Kiley, "And you're just along for the ride on this journey with her and it's a remarkable one."

Light and energy

Kiley is a self-proclaimed laid-back girl who'll turn 17 on April 10, but she says, "When I get on stage, this light goes on and I can become this different person."

Kiley has flipped the switch and mindset on public speaking. She has fears just like everyone else, but she has the innate ability to take those fears and shake them up like a can of Coke. When the lights turn on, fear is seemingly transformed and out gushes energy and connectivity.

"The best things in life come from connections we make when we come together," she said. "I have such a strong faith and know my dad is here and I know how proud he is of me and that's what keeps me motivated but also keeps me grounded."

In the movie "Rambo: First Blood Part II," Colonel Trautman describes John Rambo to CIA Officer Murdock saying, "What you choose to call hell, he calls home."

Kiley is the girl Rambo of Wildcat Forensics and public speaking.

"We kind of laugh at that because we do this for fun," Kiley said. "I love to learn about what other people have experienced and I love to tell people my stories."

Brian Hoitomt was a mountain of a man, as big as he was kind. He was also one heck of a baseball player back in the day.

"My dad was this big sports guy and acted like he didn't like my theater and musicals," Kiley said. "But when we got home, I could hear him in the shower singing along. He loved whatever I loved."

Any dad with a daughter can connect with Kiley on this story. It's not about what you're doing or where you're going; it's about the shared connections. Those are the best things in life.

Why else would both Brian Hoitomt and myself watch "The Bachelor" with our daughters? 

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