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Tyrone speech team wins two first places

Tyrone speech team sophomores Nathan Kruis and Ryan Bressler won first place honors in the autumn speech competition of the Central Pennsylvania Speech League conducted on the afternoon and evening of Thursday, November 15 at Williamsburg Area High School.
Kruis gathered 115 points out of a possible 120 in two performances of two contemporary advice poems entitled “To Believe” and “Anything Is Possible.” After hearing his performances, competition judges and speech coaches named Kruis the best overall orator at the fall competition.
Bressler garnered 107 points out of a possible 120 with two rousing renditions of a comic narrative poem by Robert Service entitled “The Cremation Of Sam McGee.” Bressler’s poetic oral interpretation earned him the best overall poetry award among the four participating schools.
Tyrone speech coach and ninth grade English teacher Richard Merryman uttered these words of praise for Tyrone’s speech team, “Tyrone Area High School students, as well as the citizens of this community, can take pride in the public speaking efforts of Charlene Adams, Ryan Bressler, Grant Gonder, Marah Hawes, Nathan Kruis, Adam Stager and Tyler Vasbinder. Each of these Tyrone students performed well in the four judging categories of speaker introduction, speaker content, speaker voice and speaker appearance at the autumn Williamsburg speech competition.”
Continued Merryman, “I also consider it worth noting that these Tyrone students demonstrated the maturity to fulfill their responsibilities to the Tyrone speech team last Thursday, even when haunted by the gossip and rumors of a potential school shooting.” Concluded Merryman, “For our winter competition at Juniata Valley in February, I anticipate that we will have six additional members of Tyrone’s speech team accompany us for a total of twelve students. For this autumn speech event at Williamsburg, some Tyrone students could not join us because of parental concerns about the alleged shooting, or because they had practice responsibilities with the Golden Eagle Varsity Football Team.”
Merryman indicated that Juniata Valley English teachers Barbara McCloskey Espy and Sherry Crawford organized the Central Pennsylvania Speech League thirty-one years ago in 1976, to provide high school students from across central Pennsylvania with the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills in an arena of friendly competition. Presently, the Central Pennsylvania League consists of Juniata Valley coached by Sherry Crawford and Tyrone native Shane Cowher, Southern Huntingdon, advised by long-time English teacher Regina Hicks, Tyrone High, coached by ninth grade English teacher Richard Merryman, and Williamsburg, directed by English teacher Elizabeth McMullen.
The Central Pennsylvania Speech League conducts autumn competitions at Williamsburg in November, winter convocations at Juniata Valley in February, and spring meets at Southern Huntingdon in April. The coach at the host school always invites a half dozen speech competition judges from all walks of life in their community to evaluate the spoken performances of participating students. In addition to providing judges, the host school also offers all student speakers, their coaches, and their bus drives a warm evening meal at no cost. Although Tyrone High usually does not host any of the three speech competitions each school year, the Tyrone coach creates and copies all of the speaker score sheets, and takes responsibility for continually refining and revising the score sheets to guide the student speakers and judges through the performances.
As most citizens of this community realize, Tyrone High’s speech team stands as the oldest team in the 155-year-old Tyrone Area School District. Organized and coached in 1913 by Tyrone High’s Principal John Gaunt, Tyrone’s 94-year-old speech team launched a rousing season of competition in 1914, with nearby Huntingdon High School. In that opening year of World War I, hundreds of Tyrone students and adults boarded the train to ride to the theatre in downtown Huntingdon to witness Tyrone’s orators debate Huntingdon’s student speakers about this question – “Should The United States Increase Its Military Forces In The Panama Canal?” Tyrone students won that debate. Of course, Tyrone’s speech team of The World War I era also featured select students participating in the junior oratorical debates conducted each May at the Tyrone YMCA, the night before Tyrone Commencement.
Coach Merryman also expressed appreciation to Tyrone Athletic Director Thomas Coleman for encouraging students on the speech team, and for including Tyrone’s speech team in the sports group of linguistic athletics.
Continued Merryman, “In this season of Thanksgiving, we cannot thank Coach Coleman and all the teachers, administrators, and citizens of this community enough for the vital encouragement they have provided to the students on Tyrone’s 94-year-old speech team.”
Concluded Merryman, “Nowhere was the value of encouragement demonstrated more powerfully for me than last August 30, 2007. That evening, I had the honor to attend the Blair County Arts Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony held at Altoona’s Mishler Theatre. At that event, the nationally recognized choral conductor Fred Waring was inducted into the Blair County Arts Hall of Fame by Tyrone businessman Harry Sickler. Before Mr. Sickler’s presentation, Waring Manager Pete Keefer offered a brief biography of Fred Waring – The Man Who Taught America How To Sing. In his moving remarks, Mr. Keefer noted that Fred Waring had graduated from Tyrone Area High School in 1917. Keefer stated unequivocally, that one of the reasons for Fred Waring’s national success as a choral conductor could be traced all the way back to his days at Tyrone High, and to the encouragement he received from a long forgotten man named John Gaunt – the man who was his high school principal AND his high school speech coach.”
If Tyrone’s speech team could produce Fred Waring in the Twentieth Century, we look forward to seeing who it will produce in the Twenty-First.