(From left) Jacob Nichols, Joseph Clate Winters, Brandon Stewart, Andrew Holcroft and Ben Hardin will participate in the 107th annual Custer Contest with oratorical pieces showcasing varying themes this Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium at Madison Consolidated High School. (Staff photo by Tali Hunt)
(From left) Jacob Nichols, Joseph Clate Winters, Brandon Stewart, Andrew Holcroft and Ben Hardin will participate in the 107th annual Custer Contest with oratorical pieces showcasing varying themes this Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium at Madison Consolidated High School. (Staff photo by Tali Hunt)
Five top-ranked members of Madison Consolidated High School’s Class of 2018 are in the final preparations for the 107th annual Custer Contest in the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium.

The oratorical competition began in 1912 after Albert Scott Custer gave a $1,000 endowment to fund cash prizes for the contestants. Graduating seniors who completed all four years of high school at MCHS and rank in the top of their class are eligible to participate. The top five seniors are given the first offers to participate.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $700; the student taking second place will receive $350. The remaining three will each receive $175.

The contest will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday with Jacob Nichols’ presentation from the classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Nichols plans to study construction management technology at Purdue University, starting this fall. His parents are Jim and Tracey Nichols. Nichols is Madison’s National Honor Society president, a two-year captain of the boys’ soccer team and a member of the Cubs baseball team.

“I looked up to the others who competed,” said Nichols of the Custer contestants when he first watched a competition just a few years ago.

Joseph Clate Winters, son of Brian and Elizabeth Winters, will follow Nichols’ presentation with his from the “Ernie Pyle War Columns” by the famed World War II correspondent from Indiana. Winters is a member of the Cubs football and track teams. He participates in independent study of world languages and herpetology, the branch of zoology focusing on amphibians and reptiles. Winters plans to study international relations at Indiana University.

Brandon Stewart is involved with Madison Theater, Cubs swimming and soccer and is a Science Olympiad. He has chosen a scene from William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride.” Stewart is the son of Mark and Maria Stewart. He plans to start this fall toward a degree in engineering from Purdue University.

Andrew Holcroft, son of Scott and Mandy Holcroft, selected “Boy 30529: A Memoir” by Felix Weinberg. He is also a member of Madison Theater, as well as a member of the Thespian Society. He participates on the Cubs track and field team and is in the National Honors Society. He plans to attend the University of Cincinnati to study industrial design.

“The work started four years ago,” said Holcroft of the efforts that gave the students the opportunity to participate in the Custer Contest.

Benjamin Hardin will close out the evening with “The Euphio Question” by Indianapolis-born author Kurt Vonnegut. His parents are Doug and Tricia Hardin. Hardin plays on the Cubs boys’ tennis team. He is a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Madison Theater and the Academic Super Bowl team. Hardin plans to study computer science after graduation.

“This contest encourages storytelling and literature...and oral tradition,” said Hardin.

The boys all agree it is a “great honor” to be able to participate in the Custer Contest as their graduation from MCHS approaches.