Paint It Red: Irving Takes Annual Competition

Thursday, March 3, 2022
First-place declaimer Finn Sipes ’22 (Irving)

In Mercersburg’s storied annual renewal of Irving-Marshall Week, the Washington Irving Literary Society edged out the rival John Marshall Literary Society, 1050-975. Irving’s Finn Sipes ’22 took first place at Declamation; Marshall’s Ryan Casey ’23 was second, Irving’s Avo Reid ’22 placed third, and Irving’s team of Sipes, Reid, Emma Shuford ’22, Matthew Tavarez ’22, and Josh Terris ’22 was named the strongest team by the judges. 

Head of School Quentin McDowell announced the results at an all-school dance following Declamation March 3.

Irving won the competition for the first time since 2015. Marshall had been victorious in the event in each of the past six years; a Marshall victory would have resulted in the first seven-year win streak by one society in the competition's 129-year history.

Sipes, of Mercersburg, placed second for Irving at Declamation 2021, meaning that for the second consecutive year, the first-place declaimer was a repeat placewinner. (Last year’s first-place declaimer was Marshall’s Clara Getty ’21, who took third at Declamation 2020.)

Sipes won with the piece "Fall Foliage: A Guided Meditation" by Colin Nissan. Casey, of Vienna, VA, took second with another comedic monologue, "Machiavelli in Kindergarten," by Peter Schoof. Reid, of McLean, VA, was third with "Beautiful Boy," a piece he adapted from a memoir by David Scheff. 

Marshall entered Declamation with a 775–550 lead in points, but Irving took 500 of the 700 available points from Declamation, where the first-place declaimer earns 300 points for their society. Second place is worth 200 points, third place is good for 100 points, and the team chosen by the judges as stronger overall garners an additional 100 points.

L-R: second-place declaimer Ryan Casey ’23, first-place declaimer Finn Sipes ’22,
third-place declaimer Avo Reid ’22 

Finn Sipes ’22 (Irving), first place: John K. Berger Prize, John S. Derr Prize, and Scoblionko Declamation Cup (given by David Scoblionko ’66 and Eric Scoblionko ’72)
Ryan Casey ’23 (Marshall), second place: J. Harry Wood Prize, John S. Derr Prize
Avo Reid ’22 (Irving), third place: Dorothy Baker Prize, John S. Derr Prize
Irving team (Sipes, Reid, Emma Shuford ’22, Matthew Tavarez ’22, Josh Terris ’22): John K. and Mary Jane Berger Prize

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

Bridget Ahlgren ’22 (Irving) and Evan Howley ’22 (Marshall) are this year’s society presidents.

Thanks to the 340 alumni, parents, and friends who joined in the spirited rivalry of Irving-Marshall Week by participating in the Irving-Marshall Annual Fund Challenge. Irving received 160 gifts, while Marshall received 180, winning both the spirit kit for Marshall members during Irving-Marshall Week as well the prize of a food truck visit after spring break. Your support of the Annual Fund is critical to Mercersburg as it helps to cover every aspect of a student’s experience—and participation of our community is just as important, as it helps build a strong foundation of support.

For more information on this story, please contact Lee Owen ( in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications.