Student cashes in, spelling 'offertory'

March 14, 2004|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Being a churchgoer left Blaine Ford a little blessed Saturday afternoon.

As the lone speller left on stage at Western Heights Middle School, Blaine correctly spelled "offertory" to win the eighth-grade Washington County Spelling Bee and move on to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Blaine, a 13-year-old Boonsboro Middle School student, said after the competition that he knew how to spell "offertory" because he reads his church bulletin.

"Offertory," a noun, is an "antiphon, anthem or other musical selection sung or played during a religious service in which monetary gifts are received from the congregation," according to the word guide used in the competition.


The spelling bee is sponsored by The Herald-Mail Co., which will provide an all-expenses paid trip for Blaine and a guardian to the National Spelling Bee, May 30 to June 4.

Blaine, son of Donna Ford and Tim Burtner, said he was nervous during the 15-round competition, but that he "was just trying to have a positive outlook."

The eighth-grader, who also won the sixth-grade spelling bee two years ago, said he studied the paideia, a book of words that could appear in the national spelling bee.

"My mom read me some words and I spelled them," Blaine said.

Blaine also spelled "elegant," "ionize," "counterpane," "chronicles," "platoon," "immutable," "marchpane," "camouflage" and "unimpeachable" correctly to advance to the final round.

"I was nervous. I've been nervous," his mother said after the spelling bee.

Geoffrey Huntoon, a 13-year-old at Northern Middle School, correctly spelled "goatee" to win the seventh-grade competition, which lasted seven rounds.

He said he studied "a couple of days" for the spelling bee.

"I didn't get any of the words that I studied for, though," said Geoffrey, son of Denise and John Huntoon.

Geoffrey said some of the spellers were nervous and worried that they would be asked to spell words they didn't know.

"Many people are scared because they're afraid they're going to get words they don't understand and never heard of before in their lives," he said.

Geoffrey also spelled "twain," "embattled," "ordination," "neckerchief," "Aztec" and "tantalize" correctly.

A Clear Spring Middle School student won the sixth-grade spelling bee after correctly spelling "harlequin."

"I was a little nervous, until I saw the seventh grade (bee), and their words were easy," winner Zach Graybill said. "And I thought our words would be easy."

The sixth-grade competition lasted 14 rounds.

Zach also correctly spelled "jewel," "echoed," "bribery," "molecular," "coalition," "melodrama," "bayonet" and "intermezzo."

"Everybody did a good job," Zach said.

Zach's parents, Laura and Ronnie, and his sister, Rachel, stood in a hallway near the stage with smiles, waiting to speak with Zach.

"That's awesome, buddy," his mother said.

His mother said the competition was very tense.

"I don't understand how these kids can hold their calm," Zach's father said. "I couldn't spell half of these words."

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