Mid-Ohio Valley spellers prepare vocabularies for regional competition

Photo by Michael Kelly Dania Atwat, a sixth-grader from Marietta Middle School, studies a list of words in preparation for the Marietta Times Regional Spelling Bee. She is one of 60 competitors listed to compete today in the regional with the winner advancing to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

MARIETTA — The Marietta Times Regional Spelling Bee will be held 7 p.m. today with five dozen students from around the region competing for a shot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.

Competitors have been conditioning for the annual contest, building up their vocabulary muscles, studying word structures, origin and definitions and learning to remain calm in preparation for the Regional Spelling Bee at the Marietta High School auditorium.

The entries represent 13 school districts, all of which are enrolled as Scripps National Spelling Bee Institutions. Students must be under 15 as of Aug. 31 and enrolled in eighth grade or lower as of Feb. 1.

For those who can’t watch the contest in person, The Marietta Times will carry a live broadcast on its Facebook page.

Dania Atwat, 11, a student at Marietta Middle School, said she’s been preparing day and night for the bee. She advanced from district to regional last year, but got knocked out at that level. Her nemesis words were paradigm and lederhosen.

“I study by writing each word on a piece of paper three times,” she said. “It helps if I write them again and again, and sometimes I say them out loud while I’m doing it. I look up the word, the pronunciation, the definition.”

Atwat studies alone, with the help of her mother, Maieda Al-Waked, and sometimes in the library with other spelling bee students.

She said she was nervous going into the regional competition last year, but that experience has improved her outlook.

“I definitely feel better about it this year,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Treven Nicholson, a 12-year-old competitor in the sixth grade at Beverly-Center Elementary in the Fort Frye district, is facing the regional contest for the first time.

“I’m starting as hard as I can, locking my head into one goal going forward,” he said. “I started at the beginning of the (spelling bee word) list and I’m working ahead. One of the pages has some word tricks, for instance if it’s a Greek-based word, the ‘ch’ is pronounced like a ‘k.'”

Nicholson said that although it’s his first time and he’s “pretty nervous,” it’s a good experience.

“I just feel like it’s entertaining. It will really be nice to see what I can accomplish,” he said.

Cate Edgell, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Warren Middle School, said she competed at the school level last year, but didn’t go to the regionals.

“I think it’s important because it’s a learning experience, even if you don’t get to advance,” she said. “Each night, me and my mom go over the list, and I write each one three times. The French and German ones are the hardest, but they’ve got spelling tips — if you ask for the origin, that will help you.”

She’s working to keep her anxiety in check.

“I’m kind of nervous, but I feel like I’ll do OK,” she said. “What worries me are the easy ones. If I get nervous, I might miss an easy word.”

For the regional finals, Christina Myer, executive editor of The Marietta Times and The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, will be the emcee and Marietta College President William Ruud will be the pronouncer.

The judging panel is made up of Washington County Career Center Superintendent Dennis Blatt, Marietta College professor Judy Ruud and Janelle Patterson, a reporter for The Marietta Times.

“I remember participating in bees when I was in school, and it was fun, exciting, a chance to meet kids from other areas,” Myer said. “I’m looking forward to being part of that excitement again.”

The benefits of competing in a bee are numerous and long-lasting, she said.

“When you study for this, you work hard in the same way that athletes do for a competition. You broaden your vocabulary and expand your ability to study in the way you’ll need to study when you go to college,’ she said. “It will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

Many of the spellers study as a group.

“They’re learning to work with each other, and they learn that competition doesn’t necessarily mean going it alone, that they can work together even though they’re competing against each other,’ Myer said.

Myer said many volunteers and veterans of organizing the annual spelling bee helped prepare for the event.

Jim Spanner is publisher of The Marietta Times and The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

“The Marietta Times is proud to once again bring the Regional Spelling Bee to the Mid-Ohio Valley,” he said. “Thank you to all of our partner sponsors, and good luck to this year’s qualifying participants.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee began in 1925, led by the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal in collaboration with nine other papers. Sponsorship was taken over by the E.W. Scripps Co. in 1941. Except for the war years of 1943-45, the bee has been held annually for 93 years, with co-champions declared in five of those years. Of the champions, 48 have been girls and 45 have been boys.

In many years, the national finals have been broadcast live on network television.

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Marietta Times Regional Spelling Bee

* When: 7 p.m. today

* Where: Marietta High School Auditorium

* Unable to attend? Watch the Bee live on The Marietta Times Facebook page.

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