RFHS senior takes 1st at state speech meet
Jackson Hardin has a way with words.
Last weekend, the Roaring Fork High School senior and valley native took first place in both events he entered at the state speech meet: a contrasting monologues performance of David Ives’ “Moby Dude” and an excerpt from Lee Blessing’s “Two Rooms,” and a poetry interpretation of “Perfect Note” by Jeremyah Payne and “Raindrops” by Omoizele Okoawo.
It was Hardin’s third year competing and first time taking the top title.
“It was nice to come back my senior year and do so well,” he said.
Hardin became interested in speech his sophomore year, after he performed in a play directed by math and drama teacher Ralph Young, who also runs the speech team.
Although speech isn’t the school’s most closely followed competition, Hardin said the coaches’ devotion really makes it worth it.
“He just gives everything to it,” he said of Young. “Last year, when he had brain surgery, his first day out of the hospital he was at the Roaring Fork speech meet.”
Rachel Cooper is no less devoted, helping to transport the school’s small team to meets.
“Putting that much time and effort into one of our activities is really special,” Hardin said.
Although he also writes and performs his own poetry, Hardin mostly excels in events that require the speaker to interpret someone else’s work.
“It’s more about the skill of how you’re saying the words than the content,” Hardin explained. “Anyone can get up and read something off a page. Doing well in those events comes down to really conveying the emotion of the piece to your audience and making the performance believable.”
His strong voice doesn’t hurt. Hardin also puts it to work on KDNK in his alternative radio show, “The Fruits of Empire,” every other Sunday at noon. He has also narrated a couple of student films, including one of his own: “Absolutely Nothing,” viewable at youtu.be/apZsdKdgmFM, and one by Cameron Doherty: “Connect,” viewable at vimeo.com/105943199.
His parents, Carolyn and Dan “Big Daddy” Hardin, instilled a love of learning in Jackson and his siblings, Michael and Jessica, from an early age. The Hardins all opted for Carbondale’s public schools, even though Jackson’s standard formal attire looks suitable for a private prep.
“I am well aware of the many flaws in the public education system, but it’s always been a test of making the best of it and taking every opportunity,” Hardin said. “There are other things I might have done if they were offered, but I just kind of focused on what there was, and that filled my time up.”
Hardin is also student council Head Boy, a member of the national honor society and the drama club, a track runner and an avid digital and analogue photographer. His band teacher, Mark Gray, has described him as a renaissance man, although Hardin’s not entirely sure that’s a good thing.
“Sometimes I feel like maybe being involved in so many things makes me a jack of all trades and a master of none, but right now I feel secure in my artistic pursuits,” he said.
So far, his many talents seem to be working in his favor. Hardin was recently accepted into Vassar College in New York, where he’s contemplating a degree in English literature or photography. Although he’s looking forward to attending his grandmother’s alma mater and says he’s ready to spend some time elsewhere, he’s sure he’ll want to return periodically, as well.
“I love it here,” he said. “The community in Carbondale has been a unique part of my development, and being in the mountains has become very special to me. One of the things I’ll miss most when I leave is going to school and seeing Sopris.”
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