I'm honored they asked, but also taken by the awesomeness of the responsibility. I know only too well, as a writer, how difficult it can be to ask someone else to evaluate your story. It's a process we writers go through regularly, of course, whether it's submitting something new to an agent or editor, or asking for a review, or entering a contest, we are always asking others to judge the value of our work. You would like to think it gets easier with time, but the truth is that each work is a bit fragile when we first bring it forward. It's difficult to send it out into the world and it can be devastating if someone says something disparaging about it. I've been told we're supposed to develop a rhino hide when it comes to these things, but for writers, who's work depends so much on opening up emotionally, this can be easier said than done.
The best critique I've received over the years includes what's good about the work, along with constructive ideas on how I can make it better. Constructive critique can be exciting and eye-opening, it can give me a kind of 'yes, exactly, I don't know why I hadn't thought of that' epiphany. I've been blessed to have editors who are exceedingly good at making me work hard to bring out the best in my work without trampling on it.
I hope I can do the same in critiquing the fresh faced manuscripts that have been entrusted to me for this contest.