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Marshall Takes Annual Competition

The Marshall Society has won Mercersburg’s annual Irving-Marshall Week competition, triumphing over the rival Irving Society, 1,380 to 605 total points.

Grace Chi ’25 (Palo Alto, CA) took first place at Declamation, Mercersburg’s 130th prize speaking contest, officially sealing the Marshall win. Kaiya Hoffman ’25 (Los Angeles, CA) was second. Ingrid Janney ’24 (Brookfield, CT) placed third, and Marshall received the best overall team prize with declaimers Chi, Hoffman, Keri-Ann Denis ’25 (Arverne, NY), Finn McNeil ’26 (Mercersburg, PA), and Oscar Su ’25 (Hagerstown, MD).

Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25 announced the results at an all-school dance following Declamation February 29.

Chi won with an eloquently delivered and deeply moving piece where she portrayed a teenager coming to terms with the tragic loss of a parent.

Hoffman took second with an emotional yet strong presentation about the women of a community standing up to abuse.

Janney’s third-place delivery of “Just Like My Mother” by Crystal Yuen ’24 moved the audience to tears. This was Janney’s second year in a row to be one of the five declaimers for Irving. The piece, written by Irving Society President Yuen (Lawrence, NJ), was a journey through losing a parent to cancer.

Declaimer judges were asked to determine first-, second-, and third-place winners among the 10 speakers, and then to make a judgment of the stronger overall team performance.

According to Declamation Adviser Matt Maurer P ’18, ’20, ’22, ’23, the most important criterion is the quality of the declaimer’s vocal performance, followed by their physical embodiment of the character. Maurer, who helped prepare the students for the competition, referred to guidelines the judges received, which state “the choice of selection determines what is possible, and the appropriateness of that choice to the speaker is also an important consideration in evaluating the effectiveness of the presentation.”

Every member of the student body belongs to one of the two societies, which faced off during the week in a number of athletic and other competitions—most notably Declamation, which pits five representatives from each society in a public speaking contest where prepared monologues are delivered in formal attire for an energetic yet dignified crowd of students, the school community, and distinguished judges from outside the school community. Victories in each event during the week garner points for the winning society. 

Jason Jones ’24 of West Chester, PA, served as the Marshall Society president. Faculty advisers for the societies are Amy Shaffer Post ’02 (Irving) and Bethany Galey ’02 (Marshall).

Entering Declamation, the point total stood at 780 for Marshall and 505 for Irving with 700 points available at Declamation.

Irving headed into this year’s competition with a two-year winning streak over Marshall. In 2022’s competition, Irving broke Marshall’s six-year winning streak. Marshall had tied Irving’s six-year winning streak from 1911-1916. The loss in 2022 ended Marshall’s hope of becoming the first society to reach a seven-year winning streak in competition history. The annual competition has been held every year but one since the school was founded in 1893. The 1936 competition was canceled because of a flu epidemic.


Chi (Marshall), first place: John K. Berger Prize, John S. Derr Prize, and Scoblionko Declamation Cup (given by David Scoblionko ’66 and Eric Scoblionko ’72)

Hoffman (Marshall), second place: J. Harry Wood Prize, John S. Derr Prize

Janney (Irving), third place: Dorothy Baker Prize, John S. Derr Prize

Marshall team: John K. and Mary Jane Berger Prize