PLAINS TWP. — Spelling whizzes from 22 elementary and middle schools in the area converged Sunday at The Woodlands Inn to determine who should represent the region at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Each of the schools sent its own champion speller to compete in the regional event. Waiting for the match to begin, some spellers sat on stage with knees bobbing nervously. Some mouthed word spellings quietly. Others sat in calm silence.
The event, sponsored by The Times Leader and the non-profit organization Newspapers in Education, is sending the winner, Grant Loose, a middle-school student from Wyoming Valley West, to the national competition to take place in May in Washington, D.C.
In each round, two or three spellers would leave the stage after silent letters, diphthongs and anxiousness proved that mastering the English language takes decades to complete.
Formidable words such as “misanthropy,” “omnipotent” and “semantics” conquered even the students who tackled them with great enthusiasm.
During the 11th round, with three spellers left, including last year’s winner, Drums Elementary/Middle School student Devin Reed, judges announced that words would be selected from a new list, one the spellers had never seen before.
Spellers did not have these words in their study guides. Instead, they had to call on their language understanding.
Reed succumbed to the word “stereognosis” — which means tactile recognition — leaving two spellers, Ameen Bader, a seventh-grader from Crestwood Middle School, and Loose.
The tension heightened during round 12 as Bader and Loose both misspelled their words, sending the two to round 13.
Bader said that if he could have done anything differently, he would have studied more. He was dissatisfied with himself for misspelling the word “viscount,” putting him into second place. Loose said that at the end, when challenged with his final word, “emanant,” he let all the nights spent reading flash cards before bed flow back to mind as he sounded out the word and took his best shot. Emanant means emerging from or as if from a source of water.
Loose recommended spellers wanting to improve their skills should, of course, not only study word spellings, but also learn about word origins. Bader offered similar advice and said studying root words helps to be better equipped when spelling new words.
The panel of judges, Mark Guydish and Mary Therese Biebel of The Times Leader, Kristie Grier Ceruti of The Abington Journal and former Times Leader employee Jean Lynott, presented trophies to the first-, second- and third-place winners.
Operating solely on donations, Newspapers in Education works to provide schools with free newspapers for students to read and teaching materials to help make reading the news fun.