On Thursday, April 28, Benedictine had its speech contest at 2:00 p.m. The event caused a shortening of classes, bringing more excitement to the school than there already is. It was held in the gym, where the participating students were to post to the center and give their fully-memorized speech with not a single note card in hand. The competition had two Cadets from each grade competing to win the big $2,000 scholarship. The top three winners were Anthony O'Kleasky, Connor Murphy and, in first place, Nicholas Garland.
The process and responsibility of choosing candidates was put into the hands of the theology department. Brendan Williamson, a teacher, coach and ex-librarian at BCP, was in charge of deciding the sophomores. Going through roughly 75 Cadets, one can imagine how hard it would be to decide those who would continue on to the contest.
"It was a little difficult," said Williamson. "I have never had to judge something like this before. I set a parameter and there were a lot of those who exceeded, and then there were quite a few who fell flat. The Cadets who I choose definitely met the criteria, but there were also plenty of them that I would've chosen that just didn't want to participate. A lot of different factors came into choosing the students who would move on. I think this contest will be a good public speaking opportunity for them."
With last year's speech contest being canceled due to COVID-19, there were four students who were completely new to this event. Ryan Allen, a sophomore, still felt confident with his speech however, having gotten his public speaking experience elsewhere. "I was honored to present my speech," said Allen. "Last year, we had speeches every quarter in theology class, and I remember being very nervous for them. I felt confident about it though. The way I present, which is speaking loud and slow for easy explanation and for getting the point across, made my argument easy to understand. I was originally nervous about reading in front of the whole school, but I think COVID made that a little easy with quarantining a number of Cadets. The only thing I was really worried about is stuttering and freezing up on stage. I am really frustrated about not bringing up the digital age in today's society. I didn't even know about that part being necessary in our speech. I was told that if I had brought it up, it would have been a unanimous win for me."
Although half the Cadets that were competing were inexperienced with the competition, the rest were hardened veterans who sought victory. Tommy Griffith, a junior who came in 5th place two years ago, was ready to blow the school away, but won only an honorable mention. "It was a definitive chance at redemption, and I was happy to get a second shot," said Griffith. "I was hoping that it was going to be a more favorable outcome. This year was differently formatted. People would say my biggest weakness is that I get into tangents easily and that I can sometimes have too much fun on stage. I'm going to have to say, the other contestants and I were kind of walking in the dark this year. I studied videos of previous year's winners and their tactics so I might have had a better outcome. I had faith in my plans, but I tried to avoid arrogance since I was unaware of the other contestants' abilities."