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UPDATE: McPhee advances to Poetry Out Loud state competition

Pictured are the top three placers in the 2011 Poetry Out Loud Central Minnesota Regional competition. From left are: Madeline Franz, of St. John's Prep, who took second place; regional winner Thomas McPhee, of Morris Area; and Yasha Hoffman, of Morris Area, who placed third. McPhee and Franz will compete in the state competition March 7 in St. Paul. Photo courtesy Nic McPhee.

Morris Area's Thomas McPhee won the Poetry Out Loud Central Minnesota Regional competition last week and Morris Area's Yasha Hoffman placed third.

McPhee, who placed third in the state competition last year, will return to compete in the 2011 contest March 7 at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul.

McPhee and second-place finisher Madeline Franz, of St. John's Prep, will represent the Central Minnesota region. Ten contestants competed in the regional.

McPhee's victory extends Morris Area's dominance in the Poetry Out Loud regional competition and continues to build the school's legacy in the contest statewide.

Morris Area students have placed first in the regional competition all five years the school has competed. Annika Kildegaard went on the place second in the state in 2007, Mary Hue won the state contest in 2008, and Alex McIntosh placed fourth and McPhee sixth in the 2009 state contest.

"It's quite a feather in Morris' cap," said Poetry Out Loud adviser Dave Johnson. "Morris kids show up every year in the program at state and people say, 'Another kid from Morris? What's up with that? What's in the water out there?' "

McPhee, who placed second on the region his first year in Poetry Out Loud, has earned his repeat win in the regional competition, Johnson said.

"What makes it work is that we make a big deal out of it here," Johnson said. "The kids really work hard at it. Thomas is always working on something. That's the extra work that spells excellence. Thomas is willing to put in that extra work."