Bee-yond committed

March 13, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Reading long lists of spelling words wasn't enough for Steven Wolfe. He typed the words, too, sending them from his fingers to his memory.

An hour a night of practice paid off for Steven on Saturday when he won the 26th Annual Washington County Spelling Bee at Western Heights Middle School.

"I studied so much," said Steven, an eighth-grader at Grace Academy outside Hagerstown.

He correctly spelled "synapse" to win the championship and a berth in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., from May 29 to June 2.


Traditionally, each student in the national bee is sponsored by his or her local newspaper. The Herald-Mail, which organized Saturday's county spelling bee, will pay for Steven and an adult guardian to go to the national bee. He also won a $100 savings bond.

The eighth-grade bee was preceded Saturday by two others.

Anna Baldasarre, 13, of Smithsburg Middle School, won the seventh-grade contest, also in the seventh round. Her winning word was "impalpable" (cannot be felt by touching).

Arthur Lacey, 11, who attends Boonsboro Middle School, won the sixth-grade bee by correctly spelling "mahogany" in the seventh round.

"I think the spellers were just phenomenal ...," said Dee Stevenson of The Herald-Mail, who coordinated the bees.

Students had to finish first or second in their school bees to qualify.

"From the time they walk into the orientation, I really, really stress to them that they're already winners," Stevenson said.

Through the first seven rounds of the eighth-grade bee, Steven Wolfe and Grace Academy schoolmate Denis Mitchell, 13, matched each other word for word. Denis would spell a word correctly, exhale and return to his seat next to Steven.

Steven would go next. After also getting his word right, he'd tap Denis' open hand, their own low-key celebration.

In the eighth round, Denis missed "dactylion" (the tip of the middle finger) and was eliminated.

Steven correctly spelled "propinquity" (proximity).

Then, Ben Baker of Springfield Middle School was given credit for spelling "dowdy" (shabby), a homonym of "doughty" (valiant).

In round nine, Steven got "preeminent" (supreme) right, but Ben missed "immalleable" (rigid).

Steven stood alone on the stage as he spelled "synapse" in round 10 to win. Ben finished second.

As his family heaped congratulations on him afterward, Steven said his brother, Rob, 15, helped drill him with lists of words. Rob finished second at a bee last year.

The boys' parents, Bob and Suzie Wolfe, said it was nerve-wracking watching Steven compete. But each time a word from the lists came up, Rob gave a thumbs-up sign to say it was within Steven's grasp.

Suzie Wolfe said Steven - who finished sixth at a bee last year - types 70 words a minute, so he used that to go over words from a different angle.

"He worked very hard," she said.

Denis, a friend of Steven's, said he hadn't heard of half of the words and used spelling rules to guide him.

The last three words he spelled correctly were "corpuscle" (living cell), "theatricality" (having characteristics of a stage play) and "osteitic" (relating to inflammation of bone). His sigh of relief got louder each time he was right.

In the first round, Luke Michael, 14, of Boonsboro Middle School spelled "slugger" instead of "sluggard" (lazy person). The judges upheld a protest from Luke's aunt and allowed him to return.

He lasted until the third round, when he was visibly surprised to hear that he misspelled "ridiculously."

Anna, who won the seventh-grade bee, said she studied whenever she had time.

She won in the seventh round after her final three opponents misspelled their words in the sixth round.

Arthur, who won the sixth-grade bee, said he didn't study much, instead spending time on his hobbies - making arts and crafts with yarn and crocheting.

He said studied about one page of words.

"He usually studies the heck out of things," his mother, Eileen Lacey, said. This time, she said, Arthur went over only terms from a category he didn't know: fashion.

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