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Spelling champs

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

The best young spellers in the area came together at Junior High East for three spelling bees sponsored by the Daily Courier's Newspapers in Education program.

Connellsville Area School District's participation in the bee was sponsored by the Falcon Foundation, the Connellsville Moose Lodge and the Connellsville Lions Club. It was the 52nd anniversary of the contest.

All three bees featured exciting finishes, with the final two students going back and forth before a winner emerged.

The three winners will compete in the regional spelling bee in Pittsburgh next month.

Thirty-two students in fifth- through eighth-grade participated in the Fayette County public school spelling bee, the largest contest. After four elimination rounds, Jesse George, 13, son of Mark and Theresa George of Normalville and Caleigh Williams, 13, daughter of Kenneth and Mary Jo Williams of Connellsville remained. The contest came down to "disastrous."

Jesse and Caleigh misspelled "narcissistic." Jesse spelled "debacle" correctly and both missed "pre-emptive." Caleigh missed "martyr," which Jesse spelled correctly. Under the rules, he had to spell a second word correctly to win. That word was "disastrous," giving the eighth-grader at Junior High East his first win in his last year of eligibility. Caleigh, who is in seventh-grade at Junior High West, has another year to compete.

"This was my fifth spelling bee," Jesse said. "I've been runner-up at my school the last three years. This was my first win." He just received his word list the day of the bee, "but I studied it back in years past." In addition to a history of practicing the lists, Jesse reads frequently and said, "I will study between now and Pittsburgh."

Twenty children in fifth and sixth grades competed in the Westmoreland County public school spelling bee.

Two remained after three rounds, Trevor Salopek, 12, son of Michael and Charlene Salopek of Norvelt and Brittany Struble, 10, daughter of Terry and Kim Struble of Norvelt. The winning word was "binoculars."

Trevor, a sixth-grader at Norvelt Elementary, correctly spelled "rottweiler." Brittany, who also attends Norvelt and is in fifth grade, misspelled "sleuth," which Trevor also missed. They both misspelled "disastrous." Brittany missed "champagne," which Trevor spelled correctly. He also spelled "binoculars" correctly for the win.

"This was my second spelling bee," Trevor said. "It was my first win. We studied as a family and I studied at recess. I like to read. I like to spell."

Thirteen students in fourth through seventh grades competed in the parochial spelling bee.

By round four, two students remained: Sarah Opst, 10, daughter of Edward and Jan Opst of Mt. Pleasant and Ty Kinter, 13, son of Chris and Michelle Kinter of Scottdale. Sarah is in fifth grade at Mt. Carmel Christian School, where Ty is in seventh grade.

Sarah and Ty misspelled "hypocrisy." Sarah misspelled "precocious," which Ty spelled correctly. He correctly spelled his second word, "renaissance" for the victory.

"This is my third year," Ty said. "I was quite nervous. "I spent the hour before the bee studying."

Lynn Petco, an English professor at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, and Cheryl Duncan, of the student affairs office at the campus, served as pronouncers.

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