It took a record 150 words to whittle the number of participants in the Edgar Murray Elementary School spelling bee down to the four pupils who will participate in the St. Clair R-XIII School District bee next Thursday.
In fact, there were so many words needed on Thursday afternoon that the judges were unprepared and had to scramble to write defining sentences for the last 15 words or so as the event continued.
“I think this one lasted longer than any of them,” gifted education teacher Jennifer Hawkins told the Murray student body after the event was over. “Everyone must have studied harder.”
Twenty-three youngsters — one winner from each third- through fifth-grade classroom — participated in the bee which ended up taking a little more than an hour to complete. In the end, the four left standing were fifth-grader Sebastian Vitt, fourth-graders Current Smith and Katie North and third-grader Kennedy Travis.
In years past, the bee continued until there was an individual winner. Hawkins said the rules were changed to avoid confusion between the school champion and the district champion.
In the district competition, students from St. Clair Junior High School also will participate. An overall champion will be crowned then.
Ten rounds were needed on Thursday to cut the field down to the final four. Up to six could have moved on, but four words were misspelled in what ended up being the final round that cut the field from eight to four.
Last year, 10 rounds also were needed, but only 131 words.
At one point, 40 words were spelled correctly in a row during rounds two through four. At that time, 19 spellers remained.
Three students were eliminated on their first word. One pupil sat down early in the second round.
After the 40 consecutive correct words, three more youngsters were incorrect in the fourth round. Another five were gone after the fifth round.
With 11 spellers remaining, two of them were eliminated in the sixth round and one more was done in the seventh round.
After a perfect eighth round, the field was trimmed to eight after the ninth round.
In the eighth round, Vitt received a reprieve of sorts. After he spelled the word “fiddle,” announcer Dawn Kingston said he was incorrect.
However, the judges put their heads together and said he had spelled the word properly, so he was told he remained in the competition.
“The judges heard the second ‘D,’” Kingston said.
The misspelled words were “fable,” “jeans,” “vein,” “zebra,” “ransom,” “upright,” “citizen,” “kidney,” “message,” “parallel,” “skimpy,” “succeed,” “bleachers,” “nuclear,” “barely,” “chocolate,” “enemy,” “fracture” and “immortal.”
Besides the four students who advanced, the other classroom winners and bee participants were Trent Simonson, Hanna Spoon, Cora Reed, Brandan Barnes, Braedin Turner, Aiden McCormack, Anthony Heigl, Aden Niederholtmeyer, Gabrielle Rettinghaus, Tristen Rodrigue, Mia Trautman, Jonathan Spicer, Grace Smiley, Collin Thacker, Sierra Counts, Cecilia VanNess, Brandi McInturff, Boston Miller and Trevor Shadrick.