Local spellers bounced from bee



E-q-u-i-v-a-l-e-n-t spelled relief for a Hagerstown teenager Wednesday.

Damien Clipp, 14, was asked to spell the word during the first round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. After answering correctly, the E. Russell Hicks Middle School eighth-grader said he was relieved.

He didn't fare as well on a written test, and therefore didn't qualify to move on to the second round of competition.

Another Tri-State area student, Jackson Taylor Montgomery of Martinsburg, W.Va., also spelled a word correctly during the first round but did not move on in the competition.


Only 107 of the 286 spellers competing in the bee moved to second round of competition.

The Herald-Mail Co. sponsored Damien in the bee.

He fidgeted slightly in his seat on stage before his number was called. Waiting for his turn at the microphone, he took several deep breaths.

After he was asked to spell "equivalent," Damien wasted no time with his answer.

"I just knew it," he said. "But I was worried I was going to get one I had never heard of."

Other spellers asked for the origin or meaning of the word. Others wanted to hear the word in a sentence or asked if it had any alternative pronunciations.

Damien said that often knowing the language of origin helps him spell a word with which he is unfamiliar.

During the preliminary round, Jackson was asked to spell "humanely." Like Damien, he was quick to answer and said he knew immediately how to spell the word.

Jackson, 12, is a seventh-grader at Martinsburg South Middle School.

"I knew it right away," he said. "I was hoping to not get any (words) with double letters."

The preliminary round also included a written, multiple choice test. Spellers were asked to choose the correct spelling of 25 words. Damien said words like hawthorn, which he had studied, were easy, but one near the end stumped him: Bewusstseinslage.

Jackson said he got that one wrong, too.

"I don't know what that was," he said. "I think it was a German one."

Damien said he'd been studying for a few hours each night before the bee. But he chose to take some time away from the dictionary after arriving Sunday in Washington with his mother, Staci Clipp.

It was his first time in the city, Damien said, and he wanted to see the sites, including the White House.

He even saw President Bush's motorcade.

"The trip in itself is a prize," Clipp said.

Damien's father, Richard Clipp, traveled to Washington to see his son compete Wednesday.

He said parents were told their children beat about 11 million others in spelling competitions to make it to the national bee.

"So, no matter how he places, he's already beat 11 million kids," Richard said.

Jackson's parents, Mike Montgomery and Lisa Clipp, were with him Wednesday.

"It's pretty exciting," Montgomery said. "We're very proud of him."

Damien said he and his mother will stay in Washington until Friday for the remainder of the competition and other activities.

Both boys will receive a $50 cash prize, a commemorative watch, a $100 savings bond and other items for participating.

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