Saipan girl wins bee

Oakenshaw. Idiopathic. Fenestrated. Marcy Ann Ermitanio didn’t even know these words. She spelled them right anyway.

The eighth-grader from Saipan took first place in the 40th annual Scripps Regional Spelling Bee, held yesterday at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort.

It was a nerve-racking competition for the 74 elementary and middle school participants, who had graduated from being schoolwide winners to regional contestants. They championed schools from Guam, the Northern Marianas, Palau and Pohnpei. In a room full of hundreds of parents, teachers and spelling enthusiasts, the children battled for a $750 cash prize and a trip to Washington, D.C.

For many the contest ended in disappointment.

“I don’t understand it,” mumbled one boy, after shuffling off the stage.

But there was also hope. Jezzel Candida, 11, who was knocked out after misspelling “bequeath,” said she aimed to be back next year.

And there were moments that broke the nervous tension. One girl squeaked after spelling a word, then quickly clasped her hand to her mouth.

“Was that a letter?” the pronouncer, Jon Anderson, asked in amusement.

Another time the pronouncer seemed to be complimenting a contestant, but in fact he was only reciting the spelling word: “congratulations.”

“Congratulations, that’s correct,” he said, once the word had been spelled.

By the fourth round, more than half of the spellers had been eliminated. By the fifth, the judges had moved off the list of official study guide words and into uncharted territory.

“That weeds out the spellers from the memorizers,” said Anderson, who has been the announcer at the bee for several years.

By round six, 10 contestants remained. By round eight, there were three. And then there were two.

A heated duel ensued between the final two contestants: Ermitanio and Masrur Alam, another eighth-grader from Saipan. The wordsmiths one-upped each other on words such as “topiarist” (someone who cuts shrubs into shapes) and “tungsten,” until Masrur faltered on the word “ufology” (the study of UFOs).

Ermitanio seized the chance to correctly spell two words in a row — “biliousness” and “Ichabod” — for the win.

The secret to spelling is knowing the word origin, Ermitanio said. By knowing the roots of the word — Latin, Greek, English or otherwise — she could figure out how to spell it.

On stage, Ermitanio thought to herself: “I got this far, I can go further.”

Now she has the chance to show off her skills in Washington, D.C., at the national competition on May 30.

Taking third place was Lorenzo Jorolan, a fifth-grader from Adacao Elementary School. This was his first spelling bee competition.

“He was the only public elementary student from Guam in the top three,” said his former reading teacher, Carla Aguon, beaming.

Jorolan studied on the weekend with his family, and during his lunch break with his teachers. He made his way through the study list, reading each word aloud and writing it down. Jorolan said he was happy to have participated in the bee, and hopes to continue next year.


Explore posts in the same categories: Education in Micronesia

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