By Joe Hadsall
A man of letters and an ancient public hall helped a fifth-grader best more than 90 other pupils in The Joplin Globe’s 2009 Spelling Bee.
Christopher Smith, of Monett, won first place in Wednesday’s competition after spelling litterateur and basilica correctly. He is a pupil at Trinity Lutheran School in Freistatt.
Rachel Peterson, a sixth-grader at St. Peter’s Middle School in Joplin, won second place. Devon Russell, a fifth-grader at College Heights Christian School in Joplin, finished third.
More than ninety fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, all winners of spelling bees at their schools, competed in the bee at Taylor Performing Arts Center at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
Smith said he practiced hard for the bee, using a computer program and reciting lists. He said he didn’t get nervous until the final few moments.
Click the player below to view photos from the 32nd annual Joplin Globe Spelling Bee.
“I was here last year, so I knew what it was like,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous until the last time I was up at the mic. Then I got a little bit frightened. I knew I couldn’t ask my parents because it was the real thing.”
Pupils took turns listening to recited words and spelling them. The words ranged in difficulty: Some in the first round were as easy as ouch, vote and fir.
At a break after the first round, sixth-grader Cassie Funke, of Memorial Middle School in Joplin, knew things were going to get tough.
“It’s easy right now,” Funke said during the intermission. She was eliminated in the third round after drawing the word taciturn.
Words were much more difficult in later rounds. Pupils were asked to spell words such as secession, knightling, plaustral, lactoprene, esquamulose, deluginous and whewellite.
The final three finished rather quickly. Russell was tripped up by oscillation, dropping into third place. In the first round of the showdown between Peterson and Smith, Peterson misspelled litterateur. Smith spelled that word and basilica to win the bee.
Between words, pupils had different ways of dealing with the pressure.
“I’d think of the words I’d hear,” Russell said. “I’d see if I could spell them off the top of my head.”
Despite the pressure of the lights, audience, silence and mystery of which word a pupil would get, the crucible of cerebral agony was endured by many of the parents.
Darrin Brower, of Joplin, said his son, Jesse, was handling the pressure well.
“He’s a little nervous, but I’m more nervous than he is,” Brower said. “He’s been studying for months for this.”
Shaik Ahmed, of Joplin, received a double dose of stress. His two daughters, sixth-grader Nazhath Sulthana and fourth-grader Farhath Sulthana, both competed in the bee.
“I’m very proud of them,” Ahmed said. “They both worked hard and worked together a lot.”
Smith’s father, Bryan Smith, worked almost as hard as his son. He made an audio recording on his computer for his son’s practice.
But his son put in plenty of effort as well. Smith gave up going to a Boy Scout camp so he could prepare.
“I told him that the rules say if you win, you never have to do this again,” Bryan Smith said. “He put the effort into it and gave it his best shot.”
The bee on Wednesday marked the 32nd year for the competition.
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Monett fifth-grader wins spelling bee<font color="#ff0000"> w/ slide show</font>
By Joe Hadsall
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