They looked straight ahead as they walked quickly — almost running, but not quite — in silence, dozens of them.
But speed walking was not part of area high school students’ competition Saturday at Notre Dame Academy in West Toledo. They hurried to be on time for the next event in a new speech and debate tournament.
“When I go into a round, my composure is very calm, but inside, my heart is racing,” said Ryan Barry, 17, of Maumee, a self-described aspiring politician. “I probably did my best in my seven-minute speech [just now] ... I’ve spoken three times yesterday and two times today. I am hoping to win in my category, with one more round to go.”
The Maumee High School junior was one of about 300 students, in grades 9 through 12, from 10 schools in northwest Ohio and two from the Dayton area. Called the “Tourduckin” Invitational, the two-day event concluded later Saturday at Notre Dame and at St. John's Jesuit High School & Academy.
Speaking competitively with little preparation on such topics as U.S. politics and economics, young Barry had just completed a 7-minute, 23-second speech on “the Republican Party’s involvement in the government shutdown.”
Competitors were given 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech on one of three topics they were offered, with an additional 30 seconds provided as grace periods to wrap up their writing. Online research was not permitted.
The competition’s prizes? Rubber ducks.
“We [at Notre Dame] have given out rubber ducks as trophies for many years, because the performer should be like a duck: Calm and cool on the surface, and paddling like crazy underneath,” said Trish Sanders, an event organizer who is a Notre Dame speech coach.
It was the first time the two schools held such an event jointly — Notre Dame after about 20 years of holding the “Duck” speech tournament and St. John’s Jesuit after starting the program last year, Mrs. Sanders said.
The idea was “mainly to allow that event to grow in the future and to support each other’s programs,” she said.
Competing high schools included Wauseon, Perrysburg, Maumee, Whitmer, Northview, and Southview, along with Notre Dame and St. John's and the two Dayton-area teams.
Participants competed in 13 events in categories including debate, interpretive event, and speaking event, Mrs. Sanders said.
About 90 teachers, speech coaches, and parents served as judges.
“Judges look for a wide variety of things depending on the category, but you are looking for students with good command of the matter they are presenting, fluency, presentation, vocal variety, articulation, and artistry,” Mrs. Sanders said. “Speech is an incredible activity for kids, because whatever we do in life, we have to present ourselves. And this prepares them for that.”
“I really like public speaking, and I want to be good at it. I want to be able to speak smoothly in front of people,” Zoe Elizalde, 15, a 10th grader from Beavercreek, Ohio, said after finishing a seven-minute speech in the International Extemporaneous Speaking category.
“You are always nervous. But what matters is how you control that in the speech,” she said.