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Bright spellers take to the stage

Local students flocked to the stage at the Egyptian theatre for the 4th annual Park Record Spelling Bee Thursday night, in a tough competition between highly competent spellers.

"This year we ratcheted up the qualification test that goes out to the schools, so the kids competing were really bright," said Amy Fehlberg,

Fehlberg, a psychologist by training and former head of the Colby School participated as a judge and was involved with the formation of the word lists and the qualification test along with co-judge Julie Glusker.

Fehlberg said she began by culling words for the bee from word lists of previous years, making sure to include all the words missed from those lists, and then expanded upon this base using vocabulary from the state’s core curriculum in a variety of subjects.

Some words in the early rounds of the 4th graders included quadrilateral, jaundice and auctioneer all were spelled correctly. Students both misspelled words that might be considered difficult and easy, with words like phrase, patriotic, exuberant and tarantella all knocking students out of the competition.

In an ironic twist, a student misspelled arctic, a r t i c, but was allowed to continue as the word was misspelled on the official word sheet sent out to students to study and on the judges’ score sheet.

Event organizer Tania Knauer, laughed about the mix-up afterwards, saying the lists had been checked numerous times but the error had somehow gone unnoticed before the competition. She said the refreshing thing about this bee is its friendly nature as a community event, and not a nationally endorsed bee that qualifies students to go onto further competition.

All students attending school or living in the Summit or Wasatch area are eligible to take the spelling bee qualification test at their school in hopes of making the bee. The test consists of a number of words that the students do not have the chance to study beforehand. The students who score in the top 20 percent on the test move on to become finalists and compete at the Egyptian.

Rob Clayton, head of the Winter Sports School was emcee for the event, delivering the words to the students. Students could ask the judges to use the word in a sentence or to give the definition of the word. Students had two opportunities for a restart, and had to state the word before and after spelling it to indicated a complete answer, otherwise they would be counted out.

In the fourth-grade competition Samantha Macuga won when Nikolai from Trailside elementary misspelled the word arrogant, which gave Samantha the opportunity to respell the word, which she did correctly, then was given a final word of her own irreplaceable which she spelled with confidence, resulting in exuberant cheers from family and the rest of the crowd.

"When I saw some of the other boys and girls and boys, I thought were smarter than me, but when they made small mistakes and trued to spell words too fast I knew they were thinking through it and taking their time," said Samantha, exultant.

Miss Macuga finished 9th in last year’s bee and credited the experience as helping her win this year as it made a difference in her strategy and helped her handle her nerves, she said. All in all she said of the event, "It was great!"


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