2 from Fay-West participate in Western Pa. Spelling Bee

| Monday, March 25, 2013, 7:39 a.m.

Two students from the Fay-West area ended their experience with spelling bees in Pittsburgh over the weekend at the 63rd annual Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee.

On Saturday, approximately 106 students from the region gathered at Children's Hospital to see which one would outspell the rest and advance to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

A student familiar to the national bee is Megan Antoon, 13, of Connellsville, a student at Connellsville Junior High School and champion of last year's regional bee.

Antoon's spelling bee story started last year when she competed in the Daily Courier Public School Spelling Bee and won. She impressed many because that was her first spelling bee. She decided to participate because of her love of words, spelling and English.

What Antoon did next was become the first student in the Connellsville area to win the regional spelling bee and advance to the nationals. She lost in the second round at nationals, tying for 51st place.

“I'm more nervous than last year,” Antoon said, adding that she felt there was more pressure for her to win and go on to nationals again.

“I think I'll do all right,” she said. “I think I'll at least make it to the finals.”

Antoon did just that; she was one of 35 students in the four separate semifinal competitions to go on to the final round later in the afternoon.

Antoon's semifinal competition lasted only four rounds with Antoon correctly spelling the words “rucksack,” “vulnerable,” “impetuous” and “virgule.”

“I knew the words a little better than last year,” Antoon said after her semifinal with other students in the region.

Antoon said she saw some familiar faces at the bee.

However, a fresh face to the regional bee was Grace Nowicki, 14, of Scottdale, a student at Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School.

At last year's local bee, Nowicki came in second. She won this year to qualify for Pittsburgh.

“I'm a little anxious and excited,” Nowicki said prior to her semifinal competition, adding that she studied the list of words provided to them by Scripps.

While she thought some of the words were tough to spell, she thought she would do OK.

Nowicki lasted three rounds, correctly spelling “coyote” and “apostrophe,” but was eliminated in the third round when she misspelled the word “gulag.”

“I did better than I thought I was going to do,” Nowicki said after the competition, noting she was hearing words other spellers misspelled that she never heard before. “I did my best.”

The final competition had local documentary filmmaker Rick Sebak as the pronouncer and had the 34 student spellers compete for over three hours.

Antoon outspelled the majority of the competition, correctly spelling “caboose,” “orthodox,” “mayonnaise,” “edelweiss,” “sustain,” “marsupial,” “predecessor,” but had to leave the stage when she misspelled the word “lassitude” and came in ninth place.

“I'm kind of disappointed,” she said, adding that she also tried spelling the words the other students received in her head. “I did OK. I got most of the them.”

Antoon said the experience with spelling bees in two years, which took her from Connellsville to Washington, D.C., was something that further strengthened her love of words.

Because of the girls' ages, they won't be qualified to participate in any further spelling bees.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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