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54th annual Fay-West Spelling Bee draws more than 60 students

| Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

More than 60 students from Fay-West public schools and a Fayette County parochial school participated in the 54th annual Fay-West Spelling Bee sponsored by the Daily Courier.

The top prize for the winner of the public bee from each county and one Fayette private school was a $100 U.S. Savings Bond and a chance to compete in the Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee in Pittsburgh in March.

Six students from Conn-Area Catholic were the first to participate in Wednesday's bee held at Connellsville Junior High East.

That parochial school bee lasted until the fifth round, with fourth-grader Ford Johnson and fifth-grader Emree Walker-Downey remaining. Johnson misspelling "hypochondria." Downey then correctly spelled that word and "propaganda" to win.

Johnson, 10, made it to third place at last year's bee. For this year, he said he trained hard and used a method of breaking down the words before he spelled them.

"That's really all I do," he said. He doesn't plan to change that strategy when he competes next year.

Downey, 10, was out in the second round last year, but feels good about winning this year's bee. She credits her increase in studying.

"I studied a lot in school and then a lot at home before I went to bed," Downey said, adding that she will continue to study the same way for the Pittsburgh spelling bee.

Twenty-eight students from three Westmoreland County schools -- Norvelt Elementary, Donegal Elementary and Ramsay Elementary -- competed in the Westmoreland public school bee with Haleigh Defoor, a sixth-grader from Norvelt Elementary, and Julia Smitley, a sixth-grader from Ramsay Elementary, facing off in the fourth round.

The two had a healthy back and forth, going through words like "cleanser," "biblical," "innate," "retrospective," "synonym," "democracy," "physique," "vibrato," "condolences," "benefactor," "prodigal" and "chimichanga," which was incorrectly spelled by Smitley and then spelled correctly by Defoor, who also correctly spelled "alliteration" to win.

Last night's bee was the first for Smitley, 11, who said she prepared by looking at the words in the study guide, saying the words in her head and then saying them aloud, and she worked with her mother on the words.

"I'll probably try to study harder next year," Smitley said.

The Westmoreland bee was the third for Defoor, 11, who said she never made it as far before. She studied hard by writing each word in the study guide five times in a row to prepare and trying not to "freak out" while on stage.

She said she will have her parents help her with the words to study for Pittsburgh next month.

Approximately 28 students from 10 Fayette County public schools -- Springfield, Dunbar Borough, Connellsville Township, Junior High East, Dunbar Township, Clifford N. Pritts, South Side, Zachariah Connell, Bullskin Township and Junior High West -- concluded the event with the Fayette public school bee. Eighth-grader Thomas "Zeke" Jones and seventh-grader Caitlin Shultz, both of Junior High East, faced off in the fourth round.

The two went though the words "vulnerable," "lethargy," "rhinoceros," "harpsichord," "amnesia," "intractable," "precipitate" until Shultz misspelled "philanthropy," which Jones then correctly spelled followed by the correct spelling of "amphibious" to win for the second consecutive year.

Shultz, 12, said this was her third spelling bee. She only studied the night before and the morning of the bee because she forgot about it, she said. "I'll probably study more next year."

Last year, Jones, 13, made it to the bee in Pittsburgh where he was eliminated in the fourth round.

"I was disappointed," Jones said, adding that the word that got him in Pittsburgh was "strudel."

This year, he studied more and plans to study even more for his second trip to Pittsburgh.

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