AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Friday, a statewide speech and debate tournament closed Austintown Fitch schools. First News producer Jerica Rogers was a judge.

It’s the first time the state finals have been held locally since 2015, and energy was high in the schools today as kids competed for the state trophy.

Over 400 judges are at Austintown Fitch schools this weekend to judge the 800 kids who made it to the state finals. It’s the first time the competition has been held at Austintown since the 90s and Austintown Coach Terri Dutton says a lot of work led up to these moments for the coaches and the kids.

“They have practiced two, three times a week every week. We have competed every Saturday since the end of October,” Dutton said.

High school students from as far as Toledo and Columbus traveled to compete. Kids paced the halls between rounds practicing.

Jacob Graber is a senior at Ursuline and has been competing in international extemporaneous speaking all four years.

“You just go into a round or you make stuff up on the spot like I do. You go into rounds and speak about what you’re passionate about or what you love,” Graber said.

Spencer Humphreys is the coach at Poland Seminary. He did speech throughout high school and says it’s great to watch kids learn and grow in the competition. Humphreys said the competition can be more than a debate or typical “speech” and there are many different categories. Some even use props or can be more like acting.

“You’re doing a one-man show or in duo, you’re doing that but you have a partner. If you’re not an actor but you like to write we have writing events,” Humphreys said.

Mia Rucci, a junior at Austintown Fitch says while the tournament is competitive, it’s a lot of fun, and gave her lifelong skills.

“Before I did speech I did not like to do any presentations I did not like to talk to anybody I was a very introverted kid,” Rucci said.

Over a dozen students made it to the final round on Saturday. All of them were in the top 6 of their event in the state.  The team from Canfield finished 3rd overall in the state.

OSDA State Tournament Finalists:
Jaxon Farmer, Howland – 2nd Original Oratory
Paige Lawton, Columbiana – 6th Original Oratory
Jared Giovannone, Austintown – 2nd Humor
Aset Jones-Bey, Liberty- 2nd Drama 
Brooke May, Austintown – 3rd Drama
Sophia Sdregas, Cardinal Mooney – 2nd Lincoln Douglas Debate
Macenzee Gaal, South Range – 4th Program Oral Interpretation
Merrill Voytko and Natalie Ciccone,  Austintown – 6th in Duo
Hannah Brose, Canfield – 6th in Declamation
Brayden Melia, Austintown – 4th in Congress (Senate)
Katie Toepfer, Howland – 6th in Congress  (House)