Spelling Bee Goes to 7th Grader

March 4th, 2009 - 10:41 pm ICT by GD  

13-year old Esther Park of Joe T. Robinson Middle School has won herself an all-expenses-paid trip to D.C. when she won the Arkansas Spelling Bee at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This would be the third consecutive year when this Pulaski County Spelling Bee competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 26-28.

Esther was calm when she spelled “ostentatious”, “phenomenon,” “voila” and “fortuitous” correctly through the thirteen rounds to be eligible for the national contest though she admits it made her “kind of freaked out”. She was among the 62 to have contested at the university’s theater in a contest sponsored b the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The students had a tough time keeping their nervousness in check and most were seen clutching their shirt bottoms or balling their hands into their pockets. Some fidgeted with the microphone in the event that was open to students who were in grades three through eight. Journalism professor Jeanne Rollberg was the pronouncer for the day.

Students were allowed to ask for alternative pronunciations, definitions, usages of the given word or even word etymology. It seemed to help as sixth-grader Erica Barnett of Columbia County said, “I tried to memorize how the words in each language are spelled and just played it by ear.”

Esther’s winning word was “eviscerate” and she admitted to knowing most words as a fifth grader when she had contested Virginia’s Spelling Bee. When her family moved to Little Rock she began using spelling games on Merriam-Webster’s website while not actually even touching the real book because “it’s too long.” She also won a copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and a savings bond for $100. The seventh grade student said she had had only a cracker for dinner and after the event said “Now, I’m hungry.”

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