Local Nabs National Title

ST. MARYS — A local student recently earned the top spot in her age group at the national level of a speech competition.

Clare Caywood, who will be a sixth-grade student at St. Marys Middle School this fall, competed at the national level of the God, Flag and Country contest on July 7 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“The contest was at The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel downtown,” Clare said. “I presented the following night at the DeVos Performance Hall in front of 600 to 700 people.”

She noted she wasn’t surprised when she won the contest.

“Well, actually, there was only two people in my age group at nationals, and the other girl had a family issue and could not make it from Arkansas,” Clare said.

“So I already knew I won before I even said my speech, so I had no stress during it. It was very different from the other competitions where I had to be nervous when the judges were deciding.”

Clare’s speech is in the form of a gameshow called “American Pick-A-Poem,” where she interactively chooses participants from the audience.

“My language arts teacher Mrs. Lisi asked us to jot down ideas, and I thought, ‘What about a gameshow,’” she said. “That was actually the only thing I thought of, and I guess it was a good idea. Me and my dad designed a poster on his computer and then sent it to his friend to print. I got the judges involved by asking them to choose a number and then I ripped that number off. Whatever was underneath it, I would say a poem about it. That’s why my speech is called ‘American Pick-A-Poem.’”

To prepare for her trip to Michigan, Clare said she practiced her speech.

“I mostly just said my speech in my head when I got bored, and I also said it a couple of times in front of my friends and family,” she said.

For winning her age group — the 10 to 11— group at the national level, Clare took home $1,000. This was her first year participating in the contest.

“I have not been in it before,” she said. “I could have done it last year but I chose to wait until my friends were all eligible. I’m pretty sure that I will do it every year until I’m to old to compete.”

Clare said she chose to compete because she enjoys writing and isn’t afraid of public speaking.

“I’ve always had an interest in writing and I’m not scared of speaking in front of crowds so I just decided to try it,” she said.

Clare noted what she has learned by participating in the God, Flag and Country contest.

“It has helped me learn that everybody has different feelings about God, flag and country, and if I ever have to speak when I’m older, I’ll just think back to this experience,” she said. “It has also helped me learn more about the Eagles organization. Everybody was very helpful and caring.”

From here, Clare has another time she will be performing — this time for a state association.

“I’m going to say my speech for the Ohio School Boards Association in October,” she said.

Clare, who will turn 12 on Aug. 17, is the daughter of Darren and Renee Caywood. She is not the first national God, Flag and Country contest winner St. Marys has seen — there have been two in the past.

“I wasn’t surprised (she won),” said Ronda Shelby, who ran the God, Flag and Country contest for many years in St. Marys. “I thought her speech was so unique, and her delivery and her elocution is just so excellent. She just pulls you into that speech, and you have such a great feeling when she’s finished. It’s such a great speech and representation of God, flag and country.”