Mercer speakers win awards at invitational

Mercer High School place winners at The North Allegheny Invitational on Jan. 7 are, from left, Isabella Smith, Kailyn Minner, Abby Christy, Bennett Grossman, Lillian Davis, Alexander Hamilton, Madeline Jewell, Ben Hamilton, and Alyssa Warholic.

WEXFORD, Pa. — The Mercer High School Speech Team returned to tournament competition last past week following a nearly three-week break for the holidays.

The first major western Pennsylvania awards tournament of the new year was the North Allegheny Invitational Tournament, held in Wexford, Pa. The one-day event attracted 311 individual competitors representing 22 schools from a three-state area, including such forensic powers as Upper St. Clair, Wheeling Park (West Virginia), North Allegheny, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, and Pine-Richland.

The event featured four preliminary rounds and a final round in each of the nine individual speaking and performing events. All performers who advanced to final rounds in their chosen events were awarded trophies.

Nine of Mercer’s 24 speakers entered in the day-long competition received awards as Mercer won two first place awards, a fourth place, three fifth places, and three sixth places.

For the third time this season, Mercer’s outstanding junior dramatic performer Isabella Smith brought home the first place trophy in competition with some of the best performers from the aforementioned schools. Four of Isabella’s rankings on the day were first-place finishes. In three awards tournaments this year, Isabella has been ranked as the best performer in 11 of 13 rounds. She also has locked up her third bid to become an automatic qualifier to the Pa. High School Speech League State Tournament in mid-March. Isabella’s teammate, senior Lillian Davis, turned in a fine performance in dramatic as well in winning the fifth place trophy. Lillian was ranked in the upper half of the competition in four of her five rounds.

Senior Alexander Hamilton, a six-year performer in humorous interpretation has also been a dominant figure thus far in humorous interpretation. Hamilton bested a strong field of big-school performers Saturday by annexing a 2-point win in his specialty. Hamilton has won two tournaments this far, and is just one bid short of being exempt from having to compete at the state league’s District 1 qualifier. Five of his seven rankings were either firsts or seconds. Hamilton’s teammate, fast-rising freshman humorous interper Kailyn Minner won the fourth place trophy on the strength of two first places and two seconds on six total ballots on the day.

Two of Mercer’s duo interpretation teams won trophies for fifth and sixth places. The team of senior Bennett Grossman and junior Abby Christy won fifth place honors after receiving three second places and a third in preliminary rounds. A pair of sophomores, Madeline Jewell and Benton Hamilton teamed up to win sixth place awards. They received first place rankings in their third and fourth round.

In the highly competitive prose interpretation event, senior Alyssa Warholic won the sixth place trophy. She received two first places and a pair of seconds in preliminary rounds.

Four more Mercer performers recorded solid showings at North Allegheny. Abby Redmond (dramatic interp) placed seventh in her event. The duo interpretation team of senior Ainslee Konkle and junior Morgan Miller also placed seventh in their event, while in prose and poetry interpretation Kendal Hartman finished in a tie for eighth place in each event.

On Jan. 5, Mercer speakers traveled to Erie to compete in their second Catholic Forensic League of Erie two-round tournament of the year at McDowell Intermediate High School. Two Mercer performers received $200 scholarships from Gannon University for placing first in their events. They were junior Isabella Smith (dramatic performance) and senior Alyssa Warholic (oral interpretation).

Mercer speakers will return to the invitational tournament train on Jan. 14 when they travel to Pittsburgh to compete in the Dalmasse Sterner Steel City Invitational, hosted by Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School.

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