After two years of cancellation due to the pandemic, the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools hosted its 37th Annual Speech Tournament for 4th through 8th graders. The tournament was sponsored by Tri Counties Bank, the Rotary Club of Grass Valley and the Nevada Theatre Commission.  This year’s speech topic was “What human quality do we need more of and why?” Students gave passionate speeches that included topics such as kindness, loyalty, love, valor, self-awareness, empathy and independence.

Speech Tournament 2023 Finalists:

1st Row: Wyatt, Austin B., Austin P., Elsa, Dalton, Ava, Dexter, Kathy

2nd Row: Hope, Nolan, John, Elaine, Felix, Toni, Clover
Speech Tournament 2023 Finalists: 1st Row: Wyatt, Austin B., Austin P., Elsa, Dalton, Ava, Dexter, Kathy 2nd Row: Hope, Nolan, John, Elaine, Felix, Toni, Clover

The preliminary and semi-finals competition was held on March 10th at Calvary Bible Church.  Fifty of the top oration students, from eleven local public and private schools, competed in a round-robin fashion, with students reciting speeches three times, each time to a different judge. Semi-finalists were determined, and their speeches were recited one last time in front of three judges.  Three finalists from each grade were then invited to the Speech Finals competition, to be held a few days later.

Speech Tournament Semi -Finalists Grade 6-8
Speech Tournament Semi -Finalists Grade 6-8: 1st Row: Nolan, John, Ivy, Elaine, Felix, Austin P., Ava, Liberty, Ana Marin 2nd Row: Kyro, Toni, Clover, Sybella, Hope, Corbin, Mathew, Nathan

The initial judging team consisted of 12 volunteers from local businesses and organizations as well as retired educational professionals.  The speeches were evaluated on content and delivery with a time limit of no less than two minutes and no more than three and a half minutes. Tournament Coordinator, Shannon Rashby, said, “It requires a lot of support from the community to run the speech preliminaries. This year, we had 24 volunteers helping out and they were just as excited as the kids to be participating.”

The student finalists presented their speeches at an evening program on March 14th, held at the historic Nevada Theatre, in Nevada City.  The esteemed panel of judges consisted of representatives from local Toastmasters groups.  Each finalist received a first, second, or third place trophy and a $25 Book Seller gift certificate. “Competition was tough. Many of the winners were determined by just a fraction of a point,” said head judge, Ron Egenes, of Area 64 Toastmasters. “Overall, the quality of the speeches was impressive. These kids could compete at the high school level and do well.”

Speech Tournament Semi -Finalists Grade 4-5
Speech Tournament Semi -Finalists Grade 4-5: 2nd Row: Elsa, Dalton, Dexter, Delilah, Kathy, Lyla 1st Row: Wyatt, Austin B., Leo

5th grade winner, Dexter Strubeck thought his first Speech Tournament was “very fun, yet anxiety inducing at the same time. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to, but it is a fun challenge with a prize at the end.”

The 2023 Speech Tournament winners are as follows:

4th Grade:

1st Place           Wyatt Baldwin                         Williams Ranch

2nd Place          Austin Becker                          Williams Ranch

3rd Place          Elsa Gray                                 Union Hill      

5th Grade:

1st Place           Dexter Strubeck                      Seven Hills

2nd Place          Dalton Angle                           Seven Hills

3rd Place           Kathy Whitehall                      Lyman Gilmore

6th Grade:

1st Place           Austin Peters                           Mt. St. Mary’s

2nd Place          Ava Becker                              Ready Springs

3rd Place          Elaine Luisetti                         Seven Hills

7th Grade:

1st Place           Felix Van Wagner Meade                     Mt. St. Mary’s

2nd Place          Hope Searles                                       Twin Ridges

3rd Place          Clover Rashby                                     Forest Charter

8th Grade:

1st Place           Toni Swansick                                     Union Hill

2nd Place          John Luisetti                                        Seven Hills

3rd Place          Nolan O’Callaghan                              Seven Hills