MERCER – The Mercer High School Speech Team continued its online tournament competition, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on Feb. 6 by participating in Hampton High School’s annual winter forensic event. The four-round competition attracted 250 speakers and debaters from 22 schools representing several states. Competition categories included ten individual speaking events, four debate events, plus student congress.

Six Mercer speakers advanced into the final rounds of competition in individual events, winning two second place awards, a fourth place and two fifth places. The sophomore duo interpretation team of Ainslee Konkle and Willow Myers continued their consistently successful performances Saturday by winning second place honors in competition with some of the teams from West Virginia, Virginia and Iowa. After receiving first, second and third place rankings in their three preliminary rounds, Ainslee and Willow, the only western Pa. team to advance to the final round, received a pair of second places and a fourth in finals, losing out to Salem, Virginia’s top team. In addition, the Mercer tandem picked up its second bid in as many weeks to this spring’s Pa. High School Speech League State Tournament. If they receive one more bid at a Saturday invitational, they will be exempted from participating in the District 1 state qualifying tournament later this month.

Mercer’s freshman dramatic interpreter, third-year performer Isabella Smith, turned in her best performance of the season, winning the fourth place award in a diverse and competitive field on entrants. Isabella was awarded a first place ranking and two seconds in early rounds heading into a competitive final round where she received a third place ranking and two fourths.

Two Mercer eighth graders stepped into the varsity spotlight Saturday winning fifth place honors in their specialties. In humorous interpretation, Alexie Cameron was awarded two second places and a fourth in the preliminary rounds and a third place and two fifths in the final round. Fellow eighth grader Haley Pears, competing in informative speaking, continued her steady improvement with a fifth place finish in the creative writing event. 

On Feb. 4, Mercer speakers took part in their second Catholic Forensic League of Erie two-round online competition, sponsored by Iroquois High School. Two Mercer performers received ribbons and became eligible for $200 college scholarships to Gannon University as a result of first place finishes in their events: sophomore Alexander Hamilton (dramatic performance) and senior Emma Taborek (oral interpretation of prose and poetry).

This coming weekend, 21 Mercer speakers and performers will participate in what figures to be the largest and most competitive tournament of the regular season, the Bethel Park Online Invitational. The event annually attracts 400 speakers from 35 schools representing multiple states, who this year will compete on a virtual platform instead of in person. In all but one of the speech events (extemporaneous speaking), entrants are required to video tape and submit their performances for evaluation by judges representing the various schools entered in the competition.

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