Spelling Bee goes 59 rounds

Alex Wilson
Posted 1/31/18

OAKLEAF – Beneath the glow of fluorescent lights in an elementary school cafeteria, two students battled each other valiantly Tuesday night, not with weapons, but with words.

The 2018 Clay …

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Spelling Bee goes 59 rounds

Posted

OAKLEAF – Beneath the glow of fluorescent lights in an elementary school cafeteria, two students battled each other valiantly Tuesday night, not with weapons, but with words.

The 2018 Clay County Spelling Bee began with 36 students, but in one of the longest county spelling bees in recent memory, a total of 59 rounds played out. The night concluded with the final 23 rounds featuring a rapid-fire duel between Erik Williams, 10, of St. Johns Country Day School and Josiah Ilagan of Lakeside Junior High.

The third finalist, Alexis Grimm of Oakleaf Junior High, lasted until round 26, but was eliminated after misspelling “keelhaul.” In the final round, Ilagan misspelled “kuruma” and Williams went on to secure the championship by correctly spelling “oleo.”

While this was Williams’ first county spelling bee, Ilagan is a repeat competitor who won the County Spelling Bee in 2016 by correctly spelling “powwow.”

“I definitely feel great about winning, but all the contestants did great,” Williams said. “There were some really hard words tonight.”

Throughout the night, students correctly spelled words such as “cupolas,” “cicerone,” and “oologist,” sometimes eliciting audible reactions from impressed onlookers. Other words such as “copis,” “verdigre,” and “cabochon” stumped students and knocked them out of the competition.

The spelling bee, held at Plantation Oaks Elementary, was scheduled to go until 9 p.m., but it ultimately ran about 30 minutes longer than intended. School Board Chairman Carol Studdard, who’s served on the Clay County School Board for 25 years, said this was one of the longest spelling bees she can remember.

“It was exciting,” Studdard said. “There were many words I’ve never heard before. I was very, very impressed with all of our spellers.”

Students used a variety of techniques to improve their chances of spelling each word. Several students, including Williams and Ilagan, visualized their words by using imaginary pens to write on their hands. Other students had different techniques. Grimm, for example, used a number system to help her spell.

“Every letter has a number, so every word has this kind of combination,” Grimm said. “So, as I was spelling, if I could remember the combination to a word, then I could be sure I was spelling it right.”

All three finalists emphasized how hard they prepared for the spelling bee, with some studying up to three hours a day.

“You have to really want something to get this far,” Ilagan said.

To determine who competes in the Clay County Spelling Bee, students must first compete in their school spelling bee.

Both Grimm and Ilagan are in eighth grade, so this was their last year they are eligible to compete. Williams, who is in fifth grade, will go on to the Regional Spelling Bee on March 9 at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville.

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