Bee spells stiff competition

February 22, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

They said they threw in the towel early because, as the host team, "we didn't want to show the rest of the teams up."

By the second round, the four-member Washington County Technical High School team had its three balloons popped in Saturday afternoon's A-B-C Adult "Team" Spelling Challenge at the local technical school for misspelling bookkeeper, privilege and disastrous.

The rules say when a team misspells a word, a judge sticks a pin in one of its balloons, said Brenda Bush, education services coordinator for The Herald-Mail Co., which has organized the event for seven years.


Proceeds go to The Herald-Mail's Newspaper in Education Program, which provides free Morning Herald newspapers in classrooms in Washington County, Franklin County, Pa., and in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

"For the record, one of us had the correct spelling on the words, but we all couldn't agree," said tech school team member Tina LaPole. "I'm a little embarrassed. I'm an English teacher."

Saturday's competition was rife with laughter as emcee Philip Kelly led the 26 four-person teams through the six rounds of competition.

The competition wasn't totally tension-free.

"This is not fun," said Sue Frederick, a member of the Greencastle-Antrim Middle School team from Greencastle, Pa. "This is serious business. There's a lot of pressure on us. We're the only team from above the Mason-Dixon Line."

The Pennsylvanians held out as long as they could, but their faces registered disappointment when their third balloon popped in the fifth round.

The round also saw the Sunrise Rotary team's first balloon get pricked when the members misspelled carburetor. They eventually went down in the last round.

The tension began to build by the end of the third round when the number of teams standing was down to 11. Two teams had all three balloons, six had two and three were down to one.

When Round Six began, only four teams still were in the running. Two had two balloons and two were down to their last one.

Teams from Springfield Middle School in Williamsport and The Herald-Mail ended up in the final fight.

The newspaper's team consisted of Sue Ridenour from classified advertising, reporters Janet Heim and Andrew Schotz and editor Dick Fleming. The Springfield Middle School team was competing under a handicap because one of its members couldn't make it Saturday.

The journalists misspelled appurtenance, leaving out the second p.

Each member of the winning Springfield Middle School team - Jeanne Carper, Mary Ellen Butts and Robin Bleesz, received a $75 check. They said they would give the fourth check to the member who was unable to show.

Kelly, director of public affairs at Citicorp, has been emceeing the spelling bee since the competition began. He usually includes about 90 words for each year's program, he said. "We used 73 today," he said.

He finds the words through various sources, he said.

"I'm a pretty good speller, but if I see an odd word during the year I'll save it for this," Kelly said.

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