Third-graders test their knowledge in NH School District's spelling bee

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When Highcliff Elementary student Tommy Quinn misspelled “agitation” in the final round of the North Hills School District's first third-grade spelling bee, his last remaining competitor, Ross Elementary student Ella Tominac-Ural began to fidget with excitement.

But she hadn't won the spelling bee yet.

There still was one more word to spell — “sororal,” an adjective meaning sisterly.

Barely blinking an eye, Ella spelled out s-o-r-o-r-a-l before some adults in the room figured out what the word meant.

Tommy, 8, threw his hands up in the air in dramatic, but good-natured, defeat while Ella celebrated her victory as the district's third-grade spelling champion. The spelling bee took place Jan. 9 in the North Hills High School auditorium in Ross and was sponsored by the North Boroughs Rotary Club, which supplied the prizes for the top three spellers — $50, $35 and $25 Visa gift cards.

Ross Elementary student Jack Gibilisco placed third.

Eighteen students from gifted programs at North Hills' four elementary schools competed.

Ella, 9, of Ross, will advance to compete in a larger spelling bee hosted by the Rotary's district on June 28 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

“Probably the best part was when you see that you're getting the invitation (for the Rotary district bee),” Ella said. “I kind of forgot about it. I just wanted the prize.”

The North Boroughs Rotary Club provides dictionaries to third-graders in the school district most years, but members decided to sponsor a spelling bee this year instead, club President Ralph Flaugher said.

Its regional organization, Rotary International District 7300, which encompasses 47 Rotary clubs in Allegheny County and in parts of Beaver County, is sponsoring spelling bees for third-graders throughout their Rotary district this year. This is North Hills' first time participating in the program.

“This gets kids thinking, working and involved,” said Walt Sickles, district governor of Rotary International District 7300.

Sickles said that District 7300 will have a district-wide spelling bee for winners from locally sponsored bees in June. He hopes to have 24 to 36 students, including Ella, compete.

By the time the top three students were left in the North Hills spelling bee, moderator Thomas Kelly, a Rotary member and former school board member, said he was challenging the students with words from fifth- and sixth-grade spelling lists.

Ella said the toughest word she encountered in the spelling bee was “attitude.”

“I just don't like those double ‘T's,” she said.

Despite his defeat, Tommy, who lives in Ross Township, said he wasn't upset.

“I know I didn't get first place, but, hey, I had a lot of fun up there on stage,” Tommy said. “I hope I get to do it again next year.”

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at or at 724-772-6353.

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