Tina MacDonald, USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs
SCHWEINFURT, Germany | January 18, 2014
Their nerves were on edge Jan. 18 when the 14 anxious participants at the Schweinfurt Elementary School quietly took their seats at the school's final spelling bee.
Kathleen O'Neil, spelling bee pronouncer and middle/high school teacher, began grilling the students with words. But judges Mary Ritzman, Christine Willis and Mike Monteleone, along with Spelling Bee Coordinator and elementary teacher, Sara Maka, announced that the first round was practice. That spelled relief!
The next round proceeded with a bit more ease as the students made their way to the microphone. They stood confidently asking for repeats, definitions word usage — all permissible in accordance with the Scripps National Spelling Bee rule book. Students appeared empowered spelling their way through tough words. At the end of the round, one student left the group.
During Rounds 2 - 5, students took turns at the microphone.Spelling words became progressively more difficult with each round. Two students fell out of competition. The pressure mounted. The group of students dwindled to the final five.
Students took a break at the end of Round 5. The pressure lightened for a few moments as the students conversed with their family members, classmates and teachers. Once Ms. O'Neil asked the students to return to the stage, all seriousness of the competition resumed.
Round 6 began with fourth-grader Logan Voss, fifth-graders MacKenzie Deekens and Alexis Shumate, and sixth-graders Jayla Cummings and Megan Short. Each student correctly spelled the words advancing them to round seven.
Words took on more challenging spellings and definitions like "grouse" and "divvy," knocking two of the five students out of the running. Tension was high in anticipation of who would become victorious in this last local Spelling Bee.
Round 8 began with fifth grader Alexis Shumate and both sixth graders, Jayla Cummings and Megan Short. The first word from Ms. O'Neil's list was "recoup." Megan got it.
Next, Alexis was asked to spell "abstruse," an adjective, meaning difficult to understand. Although she gave the spelling of the word a valiant effort, she came up just short. Jayla was then asked to spell "prognosticate." She took her time and spelled it correctly.
Then there were two: Megan Short and Jayla Cummings.
Both sixth-graders took deep breaths and one by one they were asked to approach the microphone to spell their next set of words.
Round 9 started with the word "bloviate," a verb meaning to talk at length in a pompous or boastful manner. Megan took her time, wrote the spelling of the word on the white board and then announced her spelling. Oh no! She misspelled the word.
Jayla was then asked to spell "pariah." It all came down to this moment. She took her time, like a focused basketball player at the free throw line. She spelled the word on the white board … recited it to the judges … and … Correct!
However, in order for Jayla to win the Spelling Bee, she would have to spell one last word correctly.
She took her seat and waited until she was called. Once ready, she walked to the microphone and listened for the word from Ms. O'Neil. "Barrel" was the word she was requested to spell in this final round. Jayla smiled and confidently spelled the word correctly and in doing so won the last Schweinfurt Elementary School Spelling Bee.
Elementary school principal, Dr. W. Lee Hill, and Ms. Maka thanked all 14 students for their efforts in the competition and provided each student an award for participation.
In third place, Alexis Shumate earned a $25 gift card to the Exchange. Megan Short earned a $50 gift card to the Exchange for winning second place. Jayla Cummings was awarded a Kindle Fire for the Grand Prize as well as the opportunity to advance to the DoDDS European Spelling Bee competition in Ramstein this March where she will contend for chance to move up to the National Championship in Washington, D.C.