MERCER – The Mercer High School Speech Team brought home its fourth state champion in the last two years when sophomore Kate Shaffer brought home gold from the Pennsylvania High School Speech League’s 55th Annual State Tournament at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. 

Shaffer placed first out of 76 competitors in the largest event at the tournament, impromptu speaking. She is Mercer’s 17th state speech champion since the program’s inception in 1971-72, and the school’s first state winner in impromptu, one of the competitions held only at the state level. A three-year participant in dramatic interpretation, it was Shaffer’s first appearance in impromptu speaking. She won the event by a 4-point margin over students from Moon Area High School, Coraopolis; Penn Cambria, Johnstown; Gwynedd Mercy Academy, Philadelphia; Central York; and State College. 

Kate is a daughter of David and Kathy Shaffer of Delaware Trail, Mercer. 

Three other Mercer underclassmen were named state finalists in their specialties:

• In humorous interpretation, sophomore Andrew Brinker placed third. Brinker has qualified to compete at both the Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament and the National Speech and Debate Association National competition later this spring. 

• Sophomore Rose Gigliotti won the fifth-place plaque in commentary. She has also qualified to compete at the Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament in Sacramento, Calif., in late May. 

• Freshman Cole McDuffie captured the fifth-place award in informative speaking. 

Seven other Mercer speakers brought home semifinal recognition by placing in the top 12 in their events. 

They included: senior Janalyn Miklas in dramatic interpretation; junior Elizabeth Ludwig and senior Emily Kirila, both in persuasive speaking; freshman Caleb Miklas in poetry interpretation; the duo interpretation team of senior Ryan Hamilton and sophomore Madeline Rowe; and sophomore Mason Borowicz in humorous interpretation. 

Mercer junior Abby Grabigel, competing in radio announcing, advanced to the state’s quarterfinal round by placing in the top 24. 

Mercer’s three non-advancing state qualifiers all narrowly missed moving on to semifinals in their events. They were: sophomore Evan Daugherty in poetry interpretation, junior Rachel Bish in informative and sophomore Mary Hogue in extemporaneous.

More than 725 students representing 130 school districts took part in the two-day tournament, competing in nine qualifying events, plus three others that are held only at the state level – impromptu speaking, radio announcing and student congress. 

Mercer speakers in grades seven through 10 will compete Saturday at Keystone Oaks High School’s annual freshman-sophomore tournament, the last regular-season competition of the 2015-16 speech season. 

The team will host its only public performances of the year, “Two Evenings of Forensics” – speech performances followed by a desserts reception – at 7 p.m. April 22 and 23 in the high school auditorium. The two 90-minute shows will feature a different cast of performers each evening. Tickets may be purchased from any speech team member or speech parent, at the main high school office and at the door.