WELLSBURG - Nearly 150 years after the start of the Civil War and 148 years after the fierce battle that led Abraham Lincoln to pen the Gettysburg Address, Brooke County pupils recited his famous words for a competition held March 31 by the Brooke County Commission.
Eight sixth-graders from four schools participated in the contest, which was held with the help of Wellsburg American Legion Post 34.
Emerging winners of the event were: Taylor Pannett of Follansbee Middle School, who placed first; Brittany Albert of Follansbee Middle School, who placed second; and Michael Bennett of Wellsburg Middle School and Olivia Welch of Follansbee Middle School, who tied for third place.
YOUNG?COMPETITORS — Participating in the Brooke County Commission’s Gettysburg Address Speech Contest March 31 at the Brooke County Board of Education office were, from left, front: Megan Guida, Natalie Armstrong, Samantha Barney, Karleigh Kowcheck, Katie Spurrier, Brittany Albert, who placed second; Taylor Pannett, who placed first; Olivia Welch, who placed third; Nick Calvert, Michael Bennett, who placed third; Jimmy Mazzone, Rhiannon Macom, Vincent Fournier and Eric Derikart; and back: Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne, Weirton City Manager Gary DuFour, Follansbee City Manager John DeStefano, James McFadden of Wellsburg American Legion Post 34, who served as moderator; and Brooke County Commissioner Marty Bartz, who chaired the event.
Pannett's name will be added to the names of winners at the base of the contest's trophy. A bust of Lincoln, it will be displayed at Follansbee Middle School until next year's competition.
The first and second place winners received cash prizes of $50 and $25, respectively, while the third place winners each received $10.
Each of the participants was presented a $5 and a T-shirt and certificate commemorating the event by Brooke County Commissioner Marty Bartz, who chaired the event.
Also participating were: Brittany Albert of Follansbee Middle School, Rhiannon Macom, Nick Calvert and Katie Spurrier, all of Wellsburg Middle School; Jimmy Mazzone of St. Paul School; and Vincent Fournier of St. Joseph School.
Serving as alternates were: Samantha Barney of Follansbee Middle School, Katie Spurrier, Karleigh Kowcheck and Natalie Armstrong, all of Wellsburg Middle School; Megan Guida of St. Paul School, and Eric Derikart of St. Joseph School.
James McFadden, the Post 34 member and Brooke County schoolteacher served as moderator.
McFadden, who has coordinated the contest for many years, said one of the best things about the event is observing the look of amazement from parents and others as the participants deliver the speech with precision and feeling.
He said they and their teachers can be very proud of all of them.
Coaching the pupils this year were teachers Megan Harless of Follansbee Middle School, Robyn Heaton of Wellsburg Middle School, Rachelle Fuscardo of St. Joseph School, and Greg Pugh of St. Paul School.
McFadden thanked the contest's judges for performing the difficult task of selecting the winners.
They were the city managers of Weirton, Follansbee and Wellsburg: Gary DuFour, John DeStefano and Mark Henne, respectively.
Pannett, the daughter of Tim and Amy Pannett of Weirton, said she prepared for the contest by practicing before classmates, family and teachers.
It wasn't the first time she has appeared before a large group, as she also has sung at various events, including the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life, where she performed the national anthem.
Albert, the daughter of Debbie and Randy Albert of Follansbee, she was "super nervous" before appearing before the group, but many agreed she appeared poised while delivering the speech.
Welch, the daughter of Chris and Tracey Welch of Follansbee, said she practiced uttering Lincoln's famous lines before a mirror.
Bennett, the son of Lisa Bennett and Michael Miller of Follansbee, said he practiced delivering the speech before classmates, but the most constructive criticism came from his coach.
Though many commented on his poise, Bennett said he was very nervous while presenting it.
"My heart was beating a million beats per minute," he said.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com.)