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Local champ to compete in national bee

May 27, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Even if he bombs out this morning at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, Hagerstown resident Justin W. Warner figures there is nothing to be nervous about.

"If I lose, I still get $50 and I get a week off of school," said Justin, an eighth-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

That's not to say Justin is completely carefree. He said he felt his contest number thumping from his pounding heart during the Washington County Spelling Bee in March. This morning, there will be 125 contestants in his group alone - by far the largest group he has ever competed against.

"Other than that, I'll be fine," Justin said.

Justin, 14, arrived in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. On Tuesday, he toured Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate, with his father.

"It was interesting to walk on the same floor as George Washington and bump your head on the same places as him," he said.


Justin earned a spot in the county competition by finishing second in his school's spelling bee, tripping up on "peninsula."

"Somehow I won the county," he said.

Justin said he did not study very hard for the contest and was not greatly enthused.

But he said he is excited about this week's competition and has been reviewing the words on a list provided by contest officials.

The list is good for the first round.

"After that, it's Merriam-Webster's Dictionary," said his father, George Warner.

Warner, a retired psychologist, said his son has not done a great deal aimed at building his spelling knowledge.

"He reads a lot and he picks up things easily," he said.

While in Washington, Justin will get the chance to see the sights and mingle with the other contestants. An avid science fiction fan, he said he bought a "Star Wars" T-shirt in Georgetown.

Justin said he played volleyball on Monday with contestants from Illinois, New York and the Virgin Islands.

"One kid looked at her mom and spoke Spanish and then turned to me and spoke English," he said.

Justin is one of five Tri-State area students competing in this year's spelling bee. The others are:

-Christine S. Shrier, 14, an eighth-grader at Paw Paw High School, in Paw Paw, W.Va.
- Lauren Penwell, 14, an eighth-grader at Hedgesville Middle School, in Hedgesville, W.Va.
- Clara Anne Raubertas, 12, a seventh-grader at Charles Town Junior High School, in Charles Town, W.Va.
- Nathaniel Kopp, 12, a sixth-grader at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School, in Greencastle, Pa.

Spellers who survive three rounds today will proceed to the final day of competition on Thursday. The final round will be broadcast by ESPN.

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