Last year, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Literary State Championship was among the first major interscholastic events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The novel coronavirus first caused a postponement then a complete cancellation of the competition that pits schools against one another in 12 different academic and fine arts focus areas. More than a year into the pandemic with things seemingly returning to normal, a majority of the GHSA Literary State Championships made their 2021 return Saturday as Georgia Military College Prep School hosted the Class A-Public, A-Private and AA competitions. At the end of the day, GMC Prep hoisted the state championship trophy for the sixth consecutive year after winning three events, finishing second in four others, and placing highly in three more.
Over 100 schools were represented across the three classifications Saturday, but not many sent the large group that the host school did. Students advance to state by finishing high at region, which GMC did as it had students qualify across all 12 events. Team literary competitions are scored based on finishes in each event. GMC Prep ended up with 46.5 points on the day, 10 points ahead of second-place finisher Seminole County.
“We’re super excited about it,” GMC Prep literary co-director Jenny Morris said of the sixth straight state championship. “We like to set tradition and keep it going.”
“We love being able to compete with our kids and watching them be successful,” added co-director Mark Weaver.
The GMC students particularly shined in three events. Senior Isaaiah Wilson wowed judges in boys solo with his renditions of “Make Them Hear You” and “Caro Mio Ben.” His performance was scored first overall by both event judges. Senior Cole Rogers, a literary first-timer this year, also got a pair of firsts in domestic extemporaneous speaking. Sophomore Wyatt Baugh and senior Gus Nobles took top honors in duo oral interpretation as they read from the comedic play “Greater Tuna.” Their performance earned them a pair of 100s on their scoresheets.
“It was probably the best piece we’ve sent in a long time,” Weaver said of Baugh and Nobles’ work. “They just killed it.”
Moving right on down the list, GMC Prep also got points from students in the following events: Emerson Ivey, runner-up in girls solo; Nobles, Baugh, Wilson and Preston Raburn, runner-up in boys quartet; Logan Mitchem, Gabby Sowell and Abigail Johnson, runner-up in girls trio; Alexis Waldroup, runner-up in humorous acting; Josey Maddox, third place in dramatic acting; Mitchem, third place in personal essay; and Nikki Cumba, fourth place in argumentative essay.
Adding an extra layer of difficulty to Saturday’s proceedings was the fact that directors Weaver and Morris had to spend much of the day making sure the competition ran smoothly rather than prepping their own students. That speaks just a little bit more to how impressive GMC Prep is when it comes to literary.
“It is actually very hard to host and compete,” said Weaver. “It’s not the advantage most people think it is. Jenny and I are running the event, so our kids literally go compete alone. We don’t warm them up or prep them. Once we hit 8 o’clock in the morning, they don’t see us again until it’s time for awards. We’re just thrilled that they keep being able to compete hard and strong.”
Now that this year’s competition is over and won, the GMC Prep literary co-directors find themselves in familiar territory — having multiple roles to replace with the departing Class of 2021 seniors.
“We had a lot of new students that competed this year, and they did very well by earning runner-up in the state,” Morris said. “A lot of them are ninth-graders, so we’re excited about those new kids staying on next year and the years after. We always have seniors to replace, so we’re ready for the challenge. The kids always rise to the occasion because they really want to do their best.”