April 1, 2013

Dalton High students get third in state literary contest

By Lindsey Derrick Dalton Public Schools contributor

— Even though it was their first year competing in the 2013 Georgia High School Literary Meet, Dalton High School students Abraham Ocana and Suzie Martinez found success.

Martinez, a 17-year-old junior, and Ocana, an 18-year-old senior, both placed first at the region 7-4A meet and went on to place third at the state level.

The region meet was held at Dalton State College on March 8 and the state level was in Warner Robins on March 16.

A literary meet consists of many various competitions including dramatic interpretation, essay, extemporaneous speaking, boys quartet, girls trio and solo singing for boys and girls. The events take up an entire day and when competitors are done with their event they may walk around to view other events (except the essay competition).

Ocana, who performed in the dramatic interpretation event, said he decided to compete to see what the literary competition was all about.

“I just wanted the experience,” Ocana said. “I wanted to see what I’d get and just have fun with it.”

Ocana, who is also a member of the Dalton High drama club, said he had some persuasion from his drama teacher, Wes Phinney. Phinney also helped him pick what piece to perform. Ocana did a dramatic read of the poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer.

Ocana thought the poem would be boring to perform at first, but once he started he found it really interesting and really got into his performance.

“There would be no feeling in the poem if there was no action,” said Ocana, who got so into the poem that he fell to his knees during his performance.

During the dramatic interpretation, the piece had to be performed with no notes and had to be completed within 10 minutes or points would be deducted.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Ocana said of the region meet.

Then at state, it was obvious everything was at a higher level.

“Those guys had talent,” Ocana said. “They had intensity, and they were very dramatic. It was fun watching them.”

Martinez competed in the essay portion and had to write a 600-word essay within two hours. She said the majority of the time was not to compile the essay, but to go back and make sure you did not go over 600 words.

At each level, the essay participants had a choice of six topics. Three were literary topics and three were current event topics.

At the region level, Martinez picked a topic about a novel featuring a character going two different directions. She picked “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams.

“It’s one of my favorite plays,” Martinez said. “It’s a tear-jerker and a classic.”

Martinez said she was not nervous at the region competition.

“I thought I had nothing to lose,” she said. “Everyone there was in the same predicament as I was.”

But she said she did feel the nerves when she went on to the state level.

Regions 2A-4A were all at Veterans High School for the state competition and Martinez said when the essay competitors all got in the library for their event, the number of people made her nerves act up.

For the state essay Martinez once again chose a literary topic and wrote about “Master Harold and the Boys,” a play by Athol Fugard.

For their wins at the region level, both Ocana and Martinez got medals with each region school’s emblem on the design, but they got even more from their accomplishments.

“It let me know I’m a good writer,” Martinez said.

“I’m happy knowing I won at region and got a chance at state as an individual,” Ocana said. “Third at state is pretty good.”

Teresa Bennett, who helps the essay and extemporaneous speaking competitors, said she was very proud of the Dalton High duo.

“We have very talented kids,” she said. “The kids did really well, and it was a treat to see them perform.”

As for next year, Martinez hopes to be a part of the literary team again and hopefully have the same success as this year.

Ocana is looking to attend either Dalton State, Kennesaw State University or Valdosta State University and major in theater.

Other Dalton High winners and participants from the region meet were Bo Sutherland, Will Alderman, Chase Todd, Connor Cohran (second in quartet, regional), Efra Uscanga (third in extemporaneous speaking, regional), Emma Phinney (fourth in solo, regional) and Erin Farmer (fourth in dramatic interpretation, regional).