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For the second year in a row, Anzar High School student Ella DeAmaral won the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest Friday night in San Juan Bautista. The second annual event, sponsored by the San Benito Arts Council in conjunction with the two high schools and with support from the California Arts Council and partner organizations, featured four contestants from each school reciting memorized poems of their choice.

From there, three students were chosen as finalists and continued to a second round.

DeAmaral began by reciting “Quite Frankly,” by Mark Halliday, and “The Gaffe,” by C.K. Williams in the second round.

San Benito High School student Mitchell Ross took second place with his recitation of the poems, “The Tiger,” and ”A Poison Tree,” both of which were written by William Blake.

Finalist McKinzie Lothrop, who came in third, recited “Toy Boat,” by Ocean Vuorg and “Nude Descending a Staircase,” by XJ Kennedy in the second round.

The other performers were Katie Silva and Venecia Prudencio of SBHS,and Ethan Woehrmann, Cayleyn Barrows and Jasmine Rios, of Anzar.

Executive Director of the San Benito County Arts Council Jennifer Laine said DeAmaral will receive a travel scholarship to represent the county at the state finals in Sacramento on March 12 and 13.

“It’s a good opportunity for her to network with other representatives,” Laine said, noting that state competition participants will be taken to the Capitol building, and many governmental officials will show up.

Winners of the Sacramento competition will go on to the national event in Washington, D.C. in April.

“There is a difference between liking and reading poetry well,” said DeAmaral, who also plays the guitar. ”I like to pick unique poems that tell a story.” She said her favorite poem is “Novel,” by Arthur Runbaud.

Ross said he not only loves reciting poetry but he is an actor and for 10 years has played numerous roles in musical theater in school and for the San Benito Stage Company.

Lothrop said she belongs to the SBHS Writers’ Gathering club and performs her own poetry in an open mic night at the Mars Hill Coffee shop in downtown Hollister. “Beginnings Without Endings,” is one of several poems she has written and recited.

Anzar Principal Charlene McKowen and teacher Rosemary Lopez introduced the contestants and the judges.

Judges were Hollister City Councilwoman Mickie Luna, Don Boys — a past president of San Juan Bautista Rotary —Trish Graves, a local veteran and writer, Estrella Esparza-Johnson, executive producer of Estronemicas, and Louise Roy, a retired San Benito High School art teacher and a local artist.

Amanda Chiado, program manager of the San Benito Arts Council, explained the scoring for the competition, saying the judges look at the physical presence of the reader, their voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance.

“I am thrilled to see the growth from last year’s Poetry Out Loud, and the presentations are stronger,” said Esparza-Johnson.