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All that they can bee

Area spellers compete at national level

Area spellers compete at national level

June 01, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON, D.C.

To parents and friends in the audience, the words participants in the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee confronted might have sounded a little like neolalia.

For two local students, even words "new and meaningless to the hearer" could not block early success on the stage during the first day of competition Wednesday.

Eighth-graders Anna Baldasarre of Smithsburg and James Cook, who attends Charles Town (W.Va.) Middle School, spelled their first words correctly during the first round of oral competition, but recumbentibus - "a knock-down blow" - soon followed for both students.

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Anna, who said last week she spent about 1 1/2 hours a day studying for the bee, asked to hear her first word - korrigan - used in a sentence, before nailing the spelling during the first round of oral competition.

Just hours later, Anna emerged from a family "comfort room" with tears in her eyes after misspelling the first word she encountered in the competition's third round.

Anna, an avid writer and reader, said that while she recognized many of the words other spellers encountered, she believed as soon as she was asked to spell boswellize that she was a goner.

The word means to write about a subject one views with great admiration, pronouncer Jaques A. Bailly told Anna.

"I never heard of it, so I was like, 'What?'" Anna recalled after her exit.

To qualify for the third round of competition, spellers had to accumulate points through correct responses on a written spelling and oral competition. Neither the speller assigned recumbentibus nor the participant assigned neolalia were among the 97 of 274 competitors who moved on.

James was confident as he spelled eremology, but the points he earned during oral competition did not prove to be enough to move to the third round.

Spellers traced their words across their arms and the palms of their hands with their fingers as they searched for the correct spellings. Some paused and coughed between uttering one letter at a time into the microphone, while others delivered rat-a-tat answers with spit-fire precision.

Many spellers, including Anna, tried to discover more about their words by asking to hear them used in sentences or defined, according to the bee's official dictionary, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary."

For two spellers, the questions were more specific.

"Can you sing it in a song?" asked Liz M. Adetiba of Texas, who hit a bad note with her spelling of scarabaeus, a kind of beetle.

Flustered by his word, xiphias, speller No. 122 was even more pointed in his questioning.

"Can you spell that?" Michigan fifth-grader Jeremiah D. Weaver asked Bailly, a 1980 spelling bee champion..

Before Anna's elimination, the words in the third round included gargoyle, relevancy and penicillin, as well as other, less familiar terms, such occultation - "the shutting off of the light of a celestial body by the intervention of some other celestial body" - and skiagram - a kind of X-ray.

"I guess I'm most disappointed because I knew a lot of the other words that were given," Anna said after her exit from the round.

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