The Commercial Appeal

MUS STUDENT PAUL HEADING TO NATIONALS

- LINDA A. MOORE

In a dramatic finish that saw three spellers duke it out alone over 15 rounds on Saturday, spelling words like rejoneador and voortrekke­r, a 14-year-old Memphis University School student successful­ly spelled pentalogy and the final word, cinephile, to win The Greater Memphis Spelling Bee.

Samuel Paul, in only his second year as a spelling bee competitor, will now represent the Mid-South in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held later this year in Washington,D.C.

Samuel secured the first place trophy, after forcing the spelling bee's version of a play review, as each of the bee's four judges listened several times on headphones and discussed for nearly 10 minutes how Samuel spelled the world epistolary in the 18th round.

The rule, explained,Tom Prestigiac­omo, master of ceremonies and pronouncer, is that once a letter comes out of a speller's mouth, it can't be corrected.

Some judges heard Samuel say an incorrect letter.

"Because the decision of the judges is final and the judges are deadlock," Prestigiac­omo said.

The judges ruled that Samuel had corrected himself while spelling the word. That decision meant Samuel wasn't closer to winning the bee, but instead sent the last three spellers back for the 19th round.

"I was nervous because I didn't know if they would say it was right or wrong," Samuel said.

"I was praying. I was only praying," said Esther Manoharan, Samuel's mother. "Those were words I have never heard. He takes Latin at school so I don't know if that helped. I was just saying 'thank you Jesus' when he won."

The bee began early Saturday morning with 130 spellers, ages 8-15, in third through eighth grade and representi­ng public and private schools.

Once the field was narrowed to 25, the spellers took a vocabulary test that cut the participan­ts down to 10, with some children going home in tears. Then 10 swiftly became three and three became two.

Finishing second was Misha Agrawal, 11, a fifth grade student at Dogwood Elementary, who correctly spelled apparatchi­k, but lost with the word glitterati. "I didn't know a lot of the words that were off-list," Misha said.

Spellers are given a book with words that could be used in the spelling bee, but bee officials can give spellers other words.

"For some of the words I just used some basic rules and key guidelines," Misha said.

For example, she didn't know the word mauve, after learning its language of origin is French, knew the O-sound was spelled "AU." As an eighth-grader, Samuel can't compete again. But Misha will be back next year. "Oh, definitely," Misha said. Anthony Lawrence Reano, 14, and an eighth-grade student at Barret's School finished third.

The spelling bee is in its 90th year in Memphis, said Mary Lou Brown, retired promotions and community relations manager at The Commercial Appeal, the bee's sponsor. It was first hosted by The Press Scimitar, the city's afternoon newspaper, which closed in 1983. The Commercial Appeal took over and has sponsored the bee for the last 34 years.

The most famous spelling bee alum, Brown recalls, is singer Justin Timberlake who at 14 misspelled the word yacht.

 ?? JIM WEBER, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL ?? Chloe Jones, 9, is comforted by her teacher after misspellin­g the word opossum during the Greater Memphis Spelling Bee at the Al Chymia Shrine Temple Saturday. In it's 90th year, the spelling competitio­n was a nail biter this year going over 25 rounds.
JIM WEBER, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL Chloe Jones, 9, is comforted by her teacher after misspellin­g the word opossum during the Greater Memphis Spelling Bee at the Al Chymia Shrine Temple Saturday. In it's 90th year, the spelling competitio­n was a nail biter this year going over 25 rounds.
 ?? JIM WEBER, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL ?? Eighth grader Samuel Paul reacts after spelling his final word correctly to win the Greater Memphis Spelling Bee at the Al Chymia Shrine Temple Saturday. In it's 90th year, the spelling competitio­n was a nail biter this year going over 25 rounds.
JIM WEBER, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL Eighth grader Samuel Paul reacts after spelling his final word correctly to win the Greater Memphis Spelling Bee at the Al Chymia Shrine Temple Saturday. In it's 90th year, the spelling competitio­n was a nail biter this year going over 25 rounds.

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