Keen wins lawn school spelling bee
Tuesday night, top spellers from all grades at Lawn Avenue School sparred for the sole position of representing the island at the annual state spelling competition next month. The prize went to Sydney Keen, eighth grade participant and school-wide spelling champion for 2008.
Keen won the privilege to take the school to the Rhode Island Spelling Bee Championship at Lincoln Middle School on March 15. "Last year I was supposed to be here, but I had shingles," Keen said through her smiles. Her talent shined as she completed spelling of "expertise." She continued to triumph through the event, and succeeded in delivering spellings of the winning words, "irresponsible" and "counterfeit."
Faith Chadwick, in sixth grade, already known for her sleek spelling style displayed last year, was named runner up. The final faceoff between the two girls lasted three rounds, and Chadwick proved to be tough competition to beat. Chadwick, who came close to the final rounds last year, will be the alternate for the state playoffs.
Principal Kathy Almanzor introduced the 12 players and the officials of the evening. Three top spellers in grades five through eight sat facing the audience in rows on stage. Fifth grade contestants were Emily Brewer, who hung in the competition longer than most, Michael Pratt and Hayley Carlisle. Representing sixth grade were Samuel Hollister, Isabel Crabtree and runner-up Chadwick. Seventh grade participants were Nico Rienzo, John Ragland, reigning champ for the last two years, and Andrew McCarthy. Keen led the eighth grade contestants, with Nicholas Fay and Christian Ellerbe.
School committee chairwoman Cathy Kaiser officiated as word pronouncer. Co-principal Carole Melucci joined veteran official Elizabeth Weibust on the judges' panel. Almanzor promised all present that Weibust, who plans to retire in June, will continue to return as a judge official in the future.
As the students began a practice round, Almanzor warned the audience, "No gasps, and no grimaces." The principal explained the rules as some contestants clasped and unclasped their hands, and others rocked in their seat in anticipation.
All contestants survived round one, but began soon to fall. The first contestant to falter came in round two. As rounds gained momentum with more challenging words, students dropped off quickly. Lips of remaining participants were used as chewing targets by the nervous youngsters. Some students scribbled imaginary notes in the air as they searched the ceiling for letters. After round five, Almanzor asked all contestants to, "Take a deep breath."
Words with tricky pronunciations and obscure spellings emerged. Participants were caught off guard with words such as absence, wreckage, doubtful and vicious.
Melucci expressed her pleasure on joining the judges' panel this year. "It takes a lot of patience for the students to do well," she said. Melucci went on to wish Keen luck at the state spelling bee.
Weibust congratulated all for their diligent preparation and wellplayed performance. "There were some tough words," she said, nodding in praise to the contestants.