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County student advances in national spelling bee

May 30, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

After learning late Wednesday afternoon that he had advanced to the third round of the 75th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, Usama Qadri and his father planned a little celebration.

"We're going out for ice cream," Usama said. "I guess you can call that a celebration."

But the 14-year-old Smithsburg Middle School student's break from the competitive atmosphere would be brief. After the ice cream, he said he planned to stay up late studying for today's contest, in which he'll go up against 89 other top spellers from across the country.

"I'm going to study until I get tired," Usama, an eighth-grader, said.

Andrew T. Orsie, a sixth-grader at South Jefferson Elementary School, was eliminated in the first round after spelling "pentastich" incorrectly. Andrew, 12, left the "h" off the end of the word.

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The Spelling Bee, held at the Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C., began Wednesday morning with 250 spellers. The Herald-Mail is sponsoring Usama in the competition.

He is the son of Anwar Qadri and Samina Anwar.

The competition is open to students under 16 and those who have not passed beyond eighth grade at the time of the local competition. Usama won the Washington County Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Herald-Mail, on March 9, which qualified him for the national contest.

Usama's father said he's happy his son advanced past the first two rounds Wednesday, but he would have been just as happy if he had bowed out.

"I'm proud of him, regardless of the outcome of the next round," Anwar Qadri said.

Usama, quiet and soft-spoken, said he spends his free time studying the spellings and origins of words.

He uses a tape recorder to record himself spelling the word and then checks to see if he spelled it correctly.

"I study every day," he said. "The past two weeks I've been studying really hard."

Usama's intense preparation got him past the first round, in which he spelled "gynarchy" correctly.

Gynarchy is a noun that means "government by women" or "a form of social organization among insects in which only the female parent takes part in establishing the colony," according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

"I've studied it before," Usama said. "It was pretty easy."

He then correctly spelled enough of the 25 words on the written test that was Round Two to advance to Round Three today.

Spelling Bee judges did not announce how many words each student spelled incorrectly in Round Two.

This was the first year the competition contained a written test, which Bee organizers decided to use to cut down on the length of the competition.

The students who advanced to Round Two were given 25 words to spell correctly in writing.

The students were given 30 seconds to spell each word and were penalized one point for each word they misspelled.

The students who misspelled the fewest number of words advanced to the third round.

Usama said he worried while he waited to hear whether he had made it past Round Two. Spelling Bee judges took about 4 1/2 hours to grade the tests.

"I was, like, really nervous," he said. "I thought I'd be on the borderline."

He said he was stumped on a few of the words announced near the end of the round, including "scagliola," "geusioleptic" and "leguminous."

Eighty-five students were eliminated in Round Two.

"They were very tough words," Anwar Qadri said. "Gradually, they became so difficult."

Boyd J. Michael III, Washington County Public Schools' director of secondary education, said the school system allows all students to participate in the contest at the local level, but it's usually the top students who decide to do so.

He said students may take some preliminary tests to prepare.

"It's certainly something we take seriously, and we're proud of our students who take part in that process," Michael said.

Usama will compete in Round Three beginning at 8 a.m. today.

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