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2012-2013 Washington County Spelling Bee turns into overtime showdown

Battle for seventh-grade crown goes some 40 rounds

February 23, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Jade Lee, an 8th grader at Smithsburg Middle School, won the 2012-2013 Washington County Spelling Bee Saturday afternoon at Western Heights Middle School.
Joe Crocetta / Joe Crocetta

Jade Lee and Evan Reese have big shoes to fill when it comes to spelling.

Each has an older sibling who has won the Washington County Spelling Bee and gone on to compete at Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Saturday at the 2012-2013 Washington County Spelling Bee at Western Heights Middle School, the two not only filled the shoes, but to varying extents, followed in their footsteps. Jade, 13, of Leitersburg, won the eighth grade contest and will move on to compete in Washington, D.C. Evan, 13, of Greencastle, Pa., a student at Heritage Academy, was first runner-up.

Jade, a soft-spoken Smithsburg Middle School student, said she took second place in the Smithsburg Middle School spelling bee but never expected to win the county contest.

“I still think that it’s not really possible,” she said.

Jade said her sister, Joanne Lee, 16, who won the county contest when she was in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, helped her study by quizzing her on words at home. Her mother Shoshay Schubel and step-father Scott Schubel also helped, saying and spelling the words from a 2010 spelling bee packet out loud with Jade repeating after them.

Though Jade rattled off spellings of words such as gopak, dachshund, egregious and ubiquitous without missing even one, she said she wasn’t sure what all of them meant.

Her wining word was tritium.

“I don’t know what that is,” she giggled. “I just know how to spell it.”

Jade said given her shy nature it was difficult standing and competing in front of a large audience, but she had a strategy.

“I didn’t look at anyone. And my mom told me to say the word out loud, just in case I mispronounced it,” she said.

Evan Reese’s brother Tyler, 15, won the seventh and eighth grade county contests and advanced to nationals in 2011.

“It’s kind of hard stepping into that,” Evan said. “But (Tyler) quizzes me and it’s really good because he knows how to pronounce them.”

Evan ultimately was stumped by the word “roodebok.”

Though only the eighth grade winner advances to Washington, D.C., the county bee includes contests for sixth- and seventh-graders as well. Saturday’s seventh-grade contest became a lengthy showdown of more than 40 rounds between Gabrielle “Gabbi” Conrad, 12, of Clear Spring Middle School and Logan Dawson, 12, of Hancock Middle Senior High School.

Jake Womer, a spelling bee judge and executive editor of The Herald-Mail, said the contest was the lengthiest he has seen in eight years of working with the spelling bee.

Gabbi and Logan volleyed back and forth, tackling words such as ocarina, gynarchy, bromeliad and amarillo. At several points, one would misspell a word. The next would spell one correctly, but would fail to clinch the win with a correct spelling in a final round. Audience members began throwing their hands in the air and covering their faces in empathetic frustration. Announcer Will Kauffman, a Washington County Public Schools communications coordinator, stopped the contest somewhere near round 40 and told the crowd to give the two contestants a hand.

“They have been going forever,” Kauffman said.

Finally, Kauffman bid Logan to spell “guffaw” correctly for the win. Logan, on his toes, reached his mouth toward the microphone and said “G. U. F. F. A,” and waited several seconds. An audience member whispered to himself, “Come on, little man. You got this.” And Logan said, with uncertainty, “W?”

The crowd cheered and went to its feet in applause. When Logan claimed his trophy, he clasped his hands and pumped them high in the air in celebration.

“I spelled out ‘guffaw.’ I didn’t know if I should put a ‘w’ on the end or not. But then I finally realized I needed to put a ‘w’ at the end,” he said.

Logan’s parents are Steven and Jennifer Sheppard.

Katie Li, 12, of Hagerstown, was the sixth grade contest winner. Katie, the daughter of Lieyu Li and Huiyu Li, said she was inspired to compete in the spelling bee after she placed first in a school contest as a fourth-grader at Pangborn Elementary. She studied for the contest at Merriam-Webster online at least two hours per day.

Katie said it was her familiarity with origin of languages that helped her to spell the word “gingham” and secure the win.

“I was stumped by gingham, then I asked the language of origin. It was on the list from Asia and Asian words are spelled really differently than Latin words,” she said.

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