Winner hits a good spell

March 12, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ


Of the hundreds of words Anna Baldasarre studied and restudied before Saturday's spelling bee, she smiled as she shared her favorite: agathokakological, which means "composed of both good and evil."

When good words ? shorter and easier ? popped up during Saturday's bee, and evil, confounding words stayed away, Anna earned the title of Washington County's eighth-grade champion.

From the audience, Anna's gleeful sister, Laura, breathed deeply.

Anna's mother, Beth, gasped with joy. Backstage, she kissed Anna's cheek.

Anna, 14, who attends Smithsburg Middle School, finished second in the sixth-grade bee two years ago and won the seventh-grade event last year.


For coming in first again on Saturday, she and a parent will go to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31 and June 1.

In one of Saturday's preliminary events, Max Stockslager of St. Mary School in Hagerstown won the seventh-grade bee.

In the sixth-grade championship, Tyler Bivona of Western Heights Middle School in Hagers-

town ? the host school ? came in first, but only after a tight battle in which his final competitor, Brandon Abernathy of Smithsburg Middle School, nearly won.

In the eighth round, with everyone else eliminated, Tyler misspelled "corrugated" and Brandon correctly spelled "spaghetti," giving him the chance to spell one more word and win.

But when Brandon missed "distillation," Tyler was allowed back into the contest and came back to win in the 11th round.

This was Washington County's 27th annual spelling bee. The Herald-Mail has sponsored about 20 of them, according to Executive Editor Terry Headlee.

Each year, the winning eighth-grader goes to the national bee to compete against spellers from other states, territories and countries.

Anna said getting to the national bee wasn't her goal. Just the same, she studied for success ? starting about six weeks ago, her mother said.

Cram periods came as they drove back and forth to school. Laura, 15, would call out words; Anna would spell them.

Anna gets a new word e-mailed to her each day from a Web site.

Of her seven words on Saturday, she had trouble with just one: agonal. But, she extricated the root "agony" from the definition: "Of, relating to, or associated with suffering, especially the death struggle or period of dying."

Max, 12, who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., took a bold guess, and got it right, when he was asked to spell "uncouth" in the second round of the seventh-grade bee.

He said he knew most of his nine words right away.

Unlike Anna, Max said he looked at the word list three or four times and left it at that. "The studying didn't help," he said.

Tyler prepared even less, saying he didn't study at all for the sixth-grade bee.

"He's just a good speller," said his mother, Amy Bere of Hagerstown.

Tyler said he now has six trophies: one for spelling, one for soccer, two for baseball and two for geography, which he said is his strength.

Bere said Tyler's going to the state geography bee this month for the third straight year.

Saturday's sixth- and seventh-grade spelling bee winners received $20 Amazon gift certificates and dictionaries. The eighth-grade winner got a $100 U.S. savings bond, plus the paid trip for two to Washington, D.C.

Herald-Mail employee Dee Stevenson, who coordinates the spelling bees each year, said they "recognize outstanding students in our county, as well as the parents who put forth the effort to encourage their children to be active in school, as well as with their studies."

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