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April 20, 2013
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County kids abuzz at bee

WINSTON — “Portrayal” is a word Elliot Lawton will remember for the rest of his life.

The 11-year-old Riddle Elementary School student will probably forget the words he got right at this year’s Douglas County Spelling Bee. But it’s the one he misspelled that’s likely to stick with him.

He and other students at this year’s bee final had near-perfect recall of words they’ve misspelled in previous bees.

For 12-year-old Wesley Kwok Jr. it’s “envisage” that he’ll never again get wrong.

The Umpqua Valley Christian School student took 8th place overall.

Sitting with his parents following his exit from the contest, Wesley was overcome with emotion.

“It’s alright,” he said. “I’m very regretful, but alright.”

It was the 36th annual bee, which follows official Scripps National Spelling Bee rules to suss out Douglas County’s top kid speller. Those on stage on Saturday won at the classroom, school and district level. The 28 students represented 14 Douglas County private and public institutions, plus home schools.

The contest is hosted by The News-Review and held at the Wildlife Safari auditorium in Winston. Bummed kids could be seen afterward at the animal exhibits, soothing themselves on hot dogs and cookies.

In the end, 27 kids heard the ding. “Cruel” is a good word to use to describe spelling bees.

Some contestants who practiced an hour a night for months watched opponents skate by with simple words like “peerless” and “gigantic,” only to draw “cauterize” or “martyr” on their turns. Students left out letters to words they swore afterward they knew, and others regretted speaking faster than they could think.

Fourth-place finisher Megan Alkire of Fremont Middle School missed “negotiable.” Others exited on “stifle,” “disguise” and “porpoise.”

Ashtyn Hooten, the second runner-up, hates the half-second or so it takes for the bell to ring after misspelling a word. After she nailed “iniquity” she backed away from the microphone hesitantly, still facing the crowd, waiting for a ding.

For her it finally came on “arability,” a word she’d never heard before it was read to her on stage.

Ashtyn said she’s inclined toward the hard sciences, but finds herself naturally adept at language arts. It might be why she’s a voracious reader of science fiction.

The whole event seemed to be a diversion for the bespectacled fifth-grader, who talked about the “relief” she felt when she finally heard the exit bell. She was glad she tripped up on a difficult word rather than an easy one she already knew. The 10-year-old who hopes to one day become a physicist was the top-finishing elementary schooler.

The rules change slightly when two contestants are left. The winner must wait for the other speller to slip then spell two words correctly.

Second-place finisher Joseph Childress erred on “omnivorous.” The Elkton seventh-grader was all anxious energy on stage, wringing his hands, adjusting the microphone and drumming on his thighs as he waited for the judges to read him his words.

“Machine” might describe Joseph. Several parents afterward attested they were sure he’d be the champion, based on his speed and confidence.

“I didn’t even listen to the definitions,” he said.

The son of Mary Childress hopes to enter the armed services following high school, serving either in the Marines, or in one of the Navy’s ordnance disposal units. For finishing second, Joseph took home a Kindle and an Amazon gift card.

Sitting still, hunched with his hands clutched together, first-place finisher Boone Olson seemed the perfect counterpoint to his more expressive opponent, Joseph.

Along with the largest trophy, Boone won a laptop, printer and other prizes.

His father, Eric, who happens to be his teacher at Joseph Lane Middle School, went over word lists with Boone for 15 minutes every night.

After decisively spelling the winning word, the audience — spelling along in their heads, no doubt — waited a nervous full-stop before breaking into applause.

The finalists congratulated each other, and Boone stood alone on a stage full of empty chairs.

He said afterward he’d never won a major competition before.

“I’m still trying to process what happened,” he said.

In the end, the boy his dad describes as “shy” won on a word that seems significant somehow, not just because it’s one he’ll never forget: “tenacious.”

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at gandrews@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 22, 2013 09:38AM Published Apr 23, 2013 08:33AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.