In Feb. 17 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Chris Thomas, a senior at Russell County High School, captured first place Sunday in the school's Poetry Out Loud Celebration of the Arts Recitation Contest at the schools' auditorium.
Thomas, who was awarded $75 and a plaque for his efforts, competed against seven other high school students in the poetry contest and will now move on to the state level contest in Frankfort in March, according to Mary McGowan, the drama teacher at RCHS.
Thomas recited "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his first round poem and "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold in his final poem to earn the title of RCHS Poetry Out Loud champion.
"It feels really, really good since I worked so hard on this," Thomas said following his victory. "I worked for about three months on it."
Thomas said the memorization didn't take long as he would record himself speaking the poems and listen to himself over and over on a headset. The more difficult part would be how to deliver the poetry to a crowd of onlookers.
The crowd itself, was no object to Thomas either as he has been an active member in the RCHS Drama Club for several years, something that allows him to be on stage in front of large numbers of people regularly.
"I'm very excited about moving on to state," he said. "I'm going to try and go all the way."
If Thomas fares well in Frankfort, there is a possibility he could move on to the national contest in Washington D.C. where he could compete for more than $20,000 in prizes.
Second runner-up in the poetry contest went to Jacob Phelps, a junior at RCHS, for his recitation of "Break, Break, Break" and "Invictus" while first runner-up went to senior Austin Foley for "Ozymandias" and "Annabel Lee."
Also reciting poems Sunday were RCHS students Bobbie Beane, Sierra Hurst, Mikenzie Conner, Brittany Hale and Brianna Bloyd.
Judges for Poetry Out Loud were Wanda Helm, Patricia Skaggs and Doug Anderson, who are all retired Russell County educators. Artists in Residence who worked with all students participating in the program were Octavia Sexton and Pamela Holcomb.
Not only did the event Sunday serve as the poetry contest but a celebration of all arts at Russell County High School. Art exhibits were accessible in the auditorium's lobby, courtesy of Davene Clark-Devore's classes at RCHS and greeted folks when they entered the building.
RCHS Band Director Curtis Ervin and his percussion ensemble also performed two pieces, "King of the Mushrooms Medley" and "A Time for Tony," arranged by Ben Lee. Emily Roy performed "Country Strong," the Careless Whisper Group, consisting Jonathan Dunn, Ben Lee and Keith Jesse, and The Stephen Wylder Projeck, consisting of Keith Jessee, Evan Daffron and Steven Wilder also performed as did the Russell County High School Dance team, which consists of Kristen Keltner, Channing Cooper, Kellie Short, Elizabeth Helton, Meghan Whitehead and Brenna Murray.
RCHS students Ben Lee, Samantha Hardin and Josh Carey also played the piano during the breaks in between poetry recitations.
Mary McGowan and the rest of RCHS English and Drama departments wish to thank Sr. Chief Steven Kinder and Capt. Robert King, NJROTC teachers, and participating ROTC students for their assistance and Family/Consumer Science teacher Kathy Bradshaw and the culinary arts class and her assistants for food provided as well as the ANC faculty and staff for their assistance in the recitation program.