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St. Mary's student wins spelling bee

March 10, 2001

St. Mary's student wins spelling bee



By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The winning words from Washington County's Spelling Bees were:

* Haggis, a Scottish pudding made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or calf and boiled in the animal's stomach.

* Vermiform, meaning wormlike.

* Thyme, a common herb.

When Conner Gilbert heard his word was "thyme" he knew his time had come.

Gilbert, 14, of Hagerstown, won the eighth-grade competition at the 22nd annual Washington County Spelling Bee at Western Heights Middle School on Saturday. The bees were sponsored by The Herald-Mail newspapers.

The St. Mary's School student will compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington on May 30-31.

"I feel great. I got into that last stretch and I was really nervous when I had to spell that last word," Conner said.

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Then he heard the word and knew he had it.

He wasn't as confident on the word prior to that, "lutz," which he spelled correctly to win the final round. Bee rules state the winner of the final round must spell an additional word correctly to win the contest.

Conner, who finished third in the county's sixth-grade spelling bee two years ago, is the son of Marie and Kevin Gilbert. Kevin Gilbert is chief photographer for The Herald-Mail Co.

"We were a nervous wreck," Marie Gilbert said.

"He really did a lot of hard work to prepare himself for this, and the hard work paid off. We're really proud of him," she said.

Conner said he was tired after his long day, which started in Boonsboro at 9:30 a.m. at the Destination ImagiNation's 2001 Western Regional Competition.

He got back from Boonsboro just as the sixth-grade spelling bee, the day's second bee, started.

Later in the day it was announced that Conner's DInamic IMPROV team at Destination ImagiNation won its competition.

The three spelling bees were packed with excitement resulting in each of three winners receiving sustained applause.

Three grievances were filed during the eighth-grade spelling bee, one of which resulted in the reinstatement of a speller.

Chester Cramer, 12, of Smithsburg Middle School, said he was worried when he was told he spelled "moonlet" wrong because he didn't realize there was a near homonym - another word with similar pronunciation. The word moonlet was given, but Cramer spelled the near homonym "moonlit" correctly.

Cramer rejoined the bee during the next round after his former language arts teacher, Patricia Everett, filed a grievance on his behalf. Cramer was not told the word had a near homonym. Competitors are supposed to be told if the word has a homonym or near homonym.

"I was pretty relieved," Cramer said.

As luck would have it, his first word after he returned was a homonym - "yore," which he spelled correctly after asking for it to be used in a sentence.

The day started off with an exhilarating, yet frustrating competition among the seventh-graders that resulted in the two finalists going the last 13 rounds to determine a winner.

Matthew Knotts, 12, of Hagerstown, was at times battling himself, as he won five of those rounds only to misspell the extra word and prolong the competition.

Knotts, a St. Mary's School student, won the 19-round contest by spelling "haggis," a word he had practiced the day before with his mother. Knotts is the son of Patti and Harold Knotts.

"I'm excited and now I'm feeling much less tense," said Knotts, even though he was still wringing his hands after winning.

Second-place finisher Emily Myers, 13, of Northern Middle School, said she got a bit frustrated, but was proud of her performance.

"I think I tried my hardest, even though they were tough words," Myers said.

The sixth-grade bee had a similar duel at the end, with St. Mary's Paul Donoghue, 11, and Amber Henry, 11, both of Hagerstown, going seven rounds on their own to determine a winner.

Henry won the contest by correctly spelling "vermiform."

"I was really nervous," said the Northern Middle student.

Henry is the daughter of Linda and Tim Henry.

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