Mercer High School speech team on Saturday won its 28th Catholic Forensic League Erie Diocesan championship in the 41-year history of the program and its 21st Diocesan title in the last 22 years.
The daylong national qualifying tournament was held on the campus of Gannon University, Erie.
Thirteen Mercer speakers qualified to compete at the CFL’s 61st Grand National Tournament, scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.
Mercer speakers dominated individual events, qualifying speakers to nationals in five of the six events, winning first places in five events, and capturing 12 of the 22 available speech qualifying positions – first- through fourth-place winners in all events qualified to attend nationals.
In the race for overall team sweepstakes, which included three debate events and student congress, events in which Mercer does not compete, Mercer recorded 87 team points, defeating second place Erie McDowell High School with 80 points. Mercer also received team awards for overall excellence in both rhetorical sweepstakes – original oratory and extemporaneous – and interpretive sweepstakes – dramatic performance, duo interpretation, declamation, and oral interpretation.
Leading the way for Mercer were its varsity competitors in dramatic performance and original oratory as Mercer swept first-, second- and third- place honors in both events. In dramatic performance, freshman Janalyn Miklas turned in the best performance of her two-year career with a 3-point win with eight first-place rankings and a second place in three rounds of competition.
Sophomore Ian Ollila will make his second straight trip to CFL nationals after receiving six first-place ranks, two seconds, and a third, placing second overall.
Sophomore Kendra Walker recorded a third-place finish with six firsts, a second, and two thirds from her nine judges.
In original oratory Mercer senior Anna Conner led the way with her second consecutive post-season championship with five first-place rankings and four seconds. Fellow senior Cole Handerhan won second place, finishing just two points behind Conner with five firsts, three seconds and a fourth from nine judges. Sophomore Anna Garner completed Mercer’s oratory sweep with first- or second-place ranks from eight of her nine judges, good for third place overall.
Mercer junior Maddie Hessmann kept Mercer’s winning extemporaneous speaking record intact, winning her fifth tournament championship of the year with first-place overall rankings in two of three rounds to win the Diocesan championship. This will be Maddie’s second straight trip to CFL nationals. Senior Teresa Morin earned her third straight trip to CFL nationals as she placed fourth overall. Either Maddie or Teresa has led Mercer to first-place wins in extemporaneous speaking at every invitational event in which they have participated this season.
In declamation, an event open only to ninth- and 10th-grade speakers, three Mercer underclassmen recorded their finest performances of their speech tenure. Sophomore Sarah Miller’s seven first-place rankings and two seconds led to a Diocesan championship. Fellow sophomore Sabrina Yassem won second place with six firsts, a second, and two thirds from her nine judges. Freshman Ryan Hamilton was ranked either first or second by seven of nine judges in earning the third-place national qualifying position.
The Mercer duo interpretation team of seniors Andy Roseman and Orion Anderson won first-place honors. The pair recorded five first places, three seconds, and a third to win the Diocesan title. The Mercer seniors have now won three consecutive tournament championships this year.
Two speakers placed as alternates to the national tournament in their events – junior Ryan Micsky in oral interpretation and freshman Emily Kirila in original oratory.
The team will be idle from competition for a couple of weeks as 16 members prepare to compete in the Pennsylvania High School Speech League State Tournament March 22-23 at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove.