Mercer speakers again win 12 awards at forensics tourney

Mercer speakers winning awards at a recent forensics tournament include, in front, Alex Hamilton, 3rd place in humorous, Alyssa Warholic, 1st place in prose, Aida Seybert, 7th place in humorous, Bronwyn Hawkins, 4th place in poetry, Abby Redmond, 6th place in dramatic, Isabella Smith, 1st place in dramatic, Kailyn Minner, 4th place in humorous; in back, Ben Hamilton and Maddy Jewell, 4th place in duo, Bennett Grossman and Abby Christy, 6th place in duo, and Lillian Davis, 2nd place in dramatic.

MERCER — For the second week in a row, the Mercer High School Speech Team brought home 12 individual awards from a major Pittsburgh district forensics tournament. On Jan. 21, Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia,Pa., hosted its annual day-long competition which attracted 297 competitors representing 20 schools from a two-state area, including such large schools as Upper St. Clair, Wheeling Park (West Virginia) High School, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, North Allegheny, and Erie McDowell. Speech competition was held in 10 different individual events. Speakers competed in four preliminary rounds of competition; then the field in each event was cut to the top six ranking performers for a final round which was evaluated by three neutral judges. Awards were presented to all finalists.

Twelve of Mercer’s 19 entries in the competition advanced into the final round of their event. Two Mercer performers won tournament championships, one placed second, another finished third, and eight others placed fourth through sixth in their specialties.

Three of the six finalists in dramatic interpretation were Mercer students. Junior Isabella Smith continued her winning ways as she recorded the most dominating performance in the tournament with first place rankings from all four preliminary round judges and all three of her final round judges. Isabella has placed first in dramatic interp at four of the five invitational competitions held this season and she has already secured an automatic qualifying berth to the Pa. High School Speech League state tournament in mid-March. Mercer dramatic performers made it a 1-2 sweep on Saturday as senior Lillian Davis won runner-up honors with first or second place rankings on five of seven judges’ ballots. Lillian has been a place winner at all three January tournaments thus far and she has won two of the three bids necessary for auto-qualifying to the PHSSL State Tournament in dramatic interp. For the second week in a row, Mercer senior Abby Redmond was a finalist in dramatic, placing sixth overall at Pine-Richland.

For the second consecutive week, Mercer’s multi-talented senior interper, Alyssa Warholic, placed first out of 30 entrants in prose interpretation. She was ranked either first or second on five of her seven ballots and finished in a tie for first place with a student from Mars Area, but Alyssa was declared the winner based on a higher reciprocal fraction total in the final round. This is Alyssa’s fourth tournament championship of the season and she has auto qualified to compete in prose at the state tournament later this year.

Three of the six finalists in humorous interpretation were Mercer speakers. Senior Alex Hamilton won third place honors with two first places and two seconds in prelim rounds and a second, third, and fourth in the final round. Freshman Kailyn Minner continued her consistently strong performances in humorous by winning the fourth place award. She has been a top-four ranking performer at five consecutive awards tournaments. Second-year performer, eighth grader Aida Seybert, turned in her best performance of the year winning the seventh place award.

Mercer was without it most experienced duo team on Saturday due to illness, but the other two teams stepped up with fourth and seventh place finishes. The team of sophomores Ben Hamilton and Madeline Jewell won fourth places with top-three rankings on five of seven ballots and the team of junior Abby Christy and senior Bennett Grossman won sixth place honors. Abby and Bennett received first place rankings in rounds one and two.

Mercer’s final award winner was the youngest member of this year’s team. Seventh grader Bronwyn Hawkins, competing in poetry interpretation, won the fourth place award as she was ranked in the top half of all five of her rounds. Bronwyn had been a poetry finalist for two consecutive weeks.

On Jan. 19, Mercer speakers traveled to Erie to take part in their third Catholic Forensic League (CFL) of Erie two-round speech tournament of the season. Six Mercer speakers won partial scholarships to Gannon University by at least tying for first place in their events. They were senior Ainslee Konkle, junior Morgan Miller, and sophomores Ben Hamilton and Madeline Jewell, all in duo interpretation, and seniors Lillian Davis and Alex Hamilton, both in dramatic performance.

Mercer will host its 48th Annual Speech Invitational Tournament on Jan. 28, sponsored by Mercer Rotary. The general public is welcome to attend the day-long event which will feature competition in nine different individual speaking events plus public forum debate and student congress. Speech events will have three preliminary rounds and a final round featuring the top 6-7 performers in each event going head-to-head before a three-person judging panel. Preliminary rounds of competition begin at 8:45 a.m. with final rounds in speech set for 1:45 p.m. An awards assembly will follow at 3:45 p.m. Nearly 200 students from at least 15 western Pennsylvania high schools are expected to participate. Mercer is the defending tournament champion.

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