Even be­fore they spell, they’re al­ready win­ners

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Three mid­dle school stu­dents from South­ern Mary­land will step into the national spot­light today with 288 other com­peti­tors at the 90th an­nual Scripps National Spell­ing Bee at the Gay­lord National Re­sort & Con­ven­tion Cen­ter at National Har­bor. And no mat­ter what hap­pens, th­ese three re­mark­able spell­ers are al­ready cham­pi­ons.

Charles County’s cham­pion speller is Mil­ton M. Somers Mid­dle School eighth-grader Ha­ley Pay­ton. She rolled through the lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion in Fe­bru­ary in 13 rounds. Her win­ning word was “am­phibi­ous.”

St. Mary’s County will be rep­re­sented by An­nalee John­son, an eighth-grader from the Ch­e­sa­peake Pub­lic Char­ter School. John­son won a marathon spell­ing match within a match in March with Katie Fra­zier, an eighth-grader from Leonard­town Mid­dle School. Af­ter the rest of the field had been elim­i­nated in seven rounds, John­son and Fra­zier volleyed more than 50 words back and forth be­fore John­son fi­nally emerged as the champ by cor­rectly spell­ing “serdab.”

This is the sec­ond trip to the na­tion­als for Calvert County’s lo­cal cham­pion, Anna Kleist. Now an eighth-grader, the Plum Point Mid­dle School student won her county’s bee for a sec­ond straight year, so she’s a vet­eran of the national stage. She tri­umphed in the Calvert bee this spring in 24 rounds, win­ning with the word “al­go­rithm.” As in the St. Mary’s bee, the com­pe­ti­tion was be­tween two spell­ers for mul­ti­ple rounds af­ter the rest of the field was win­nowed away. Kleist out­lasted fel­low Plum Point student Sadie Storm, a sev­enth-grader.

Now it’s on to the na­tion­als, where there’s no guar­an­tee there will be a clear win­ner, if re­cent history is any in­di­ca­tion. The Scripps bee has crowned co-cham­pi­ons for the past three years when spell­ing dead­locks could not be bro­ken. The win­ner gets a $40,000 grand prize, while sec­ond place brings home $30,000.

When they’re not spell­ing this week, John­son, Kleist and Pay­ton will be treated to a num­ber of special events in and around the na­tion’s cap­i­tal with their fam­i­lies and other com­peti­tors.

Pre­lim­i­nar­ies, in­clud­ing a com­put­er­ized spell­ing test, took place yes­ter­day. Two oral rounds will be con­ducted today, tak­ing the form of a tra­di­tional spell­ing bee. A four-sec­tion, com­puter-de­liv­ered test will be ad­min­is­tered to the spell­ers tonight. Those who emerge from all of that will ad­vance to the fi­nals, which will be tele­vised live to­mor­row night start­ing at 8:30 on ESPN.

No mat­ter what hap­pens this week at National Har­bor, John­son, Kleist and Pay­ton are bril­liant stu­dents who have truly earned their place on the national stage. They were spon­sored by the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, The En­ter­prise and The Calvert Recorder — the three South­ern Mary­land news­pa­pers in the APG Me­dia of Ch­e­sa­peake group — as well as South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive, the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land and Chaney En­ter­prises.

What­ever this week brings for each of them, we al­ready count them as win­ners. Today and to­mor­row, we ea­gerly cheer them on, and we in­vite the community to join us in show­ing sup­port for our hard­work­ing and tal­ented tri-county spell­ers.

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