Spelling Bee Winner Declared Despite Drama

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

Some of the brightest minds in the Valley were on display Saturday during the Rockingham District Ruritan Regional Spelling Bee.

The spelling bee had barely started when scandal rocked the stage. A confusing definition left Willow McMichael, the second speller, as the first eliminated.

Her word- G.U.Y.

"I was expecting the sentence would be about a man, but, they gave me a rope or something," she said. "Then I asked if it was a homophone and they said no."

Walking away embarrassed for being the first out, Willow was confused. She challenged her elimination. The judges, including TV-3's George Hirschmann, eventually decided to let her back in.

"I was excited because I was watching them spell, and I knew most of the words that they got and I was like, I could still be in," she said.

Willow went on for several more rounds until she was finally tripped up for real.

I did tornado with an E at the end. Right when I walked over and they were about to show me the word and how it was spelled, I said, it wasn't an E, was it? They said, you already know."

The bee continued. Misleading pronunciations of the words mole, the Spanish sauce, and feldspar left two other spellers scratching their heads as they walked off stage.

Several rounds passed and the words got increasingly difficult until only two remained. Back and forth they went until the wrong spelling of the word banzai, meaning the Japanese war cry and not the tiny tree, gave Madeline Hall a chance she's wanted for the past three years.

"I enjoy spelling and then I just tried to improve and I set a new goal each time," said Madeline. "My goal this time was to make the top three, so, I was proud of myself."

Ultimately and quite fittingly, the word finale gave Madeline the chance to head to the Scripps National Bee in May. Her parents were very excited.

"It's going to be a whole new ballgame, a lot more words, and the first time out there," said mother Dara Hall. "She'll do the best she can."

"I would just like her to end up being pleased with her performance," said father Michael Hall. "As long as she's pleased with her effort, then so am I."

Madeline plans on training for the much harder words the Scripps Bee uses. If she makes it to the final round, she even has a word that she wants to win on.

"It's highly unlikely I'd get this word but my favorite word is ipilipil. It's a Philippine shrub. I don't know. It's just fun to say.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is planned for May 28th. If Madeline is unable to attend, the runner-up will be the one to represent the Valley.

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