By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — After a thrilling 33 round contest, seventh grader Josephine Hovis emerged triumphant as the Cooperstown Middle School Scripps Spelling Bee Champion.
“It doesn’t usually go for that long,” said Chalya Pudlewski, the seventh grade English teacher at CCS, who helped to organize the competition.
Indeed, Principal Michael Cring announced after the contest that it had gone on for more rounds than any in the school’s history.
The spelling bee, held in the CCS middle/high school auditorium, featured five eighth graders and five seventh graders.
The eighth graders were Owen Carr, Thomas Knight, Wriley Nelson, Pierce Snyder and Shane Tang while the seventh graders were Josephine Hovis, Nicole Lionetti, Abigail Makofske, Kyle Meyer and Nathaniel Miller.
The selection of these students began in October, when everyone in the eighth grade class competed in a spelling bee and everyone in the seventh grade class competed in a separate spelling bee.
The top 10 finishers in the seventh grade then competed against each another while the top 10 ten finishers in the eighth grade did the same in the second round, to determine the five students in each class who would have the privilege of competing for the title.
On Thursday, Dec. 5, the auditorium was packed for the final contest, mostly as a result of both the entire eighth and seventh grade class being in attendance.
The rules of the competition were simple. Each student went up to the microphone, and was asked to spell a word by Principal Cring. Each student could get one word wrong, but a second misspelled word would result in their elimination. Students were allowed to ask the principal to repeat the word, ask for a definition, ask for the word’s origin, and ask to use it in a sentence.
Also, if no student got a word right in a round, no student would be eliminated that round.
The first round passed without any CCS student committing an error. Then the second. Then the third.
Indeed, at the start of round eight, with none of the 10 students having missed a word, the faculty flipped ahead a few pages in the list of words in order to increase the difficulty.
Sure enough, in round nine, Josephine Hovis made the first error, failing to correctly spell Bolide, a kind of meteor. The next error was made by Abigail Makofske, also in round nine, after she failed to correctly spell turmoil. A misspelling of ailment eliminated Makfoske, in round 10, which also saw Kyle Myer receive an error for misspelling infamous, and Nicole Lionetti take her first error. Lionetti went out in round 11 and Nathaniel Miller took his first error that same round, before going out on insinuate in round 12. Eighth graders Owen Carr and Thomas Knight, both of whom had started strong, each took errors in round 13.
At this point the field consisted of five eigth graders and two seventh graders, with seventh grader Hovis holding down the fort as the only remaining girl.
Owen Carr was eliminated in round 15 when he failed to spell ostracize, and Wriley Nelson and Pierce Snyder each took errors in Round 17. This left eighth grader Shane Tang as the only contestant without an error.
Nelson went out on juxtapose in round 18 and Pierce exited the stage on ventriloquy in round 20.
Now there were only four contestants: Shane Tang, with no errors, Thomas Knight, who’d stayed alive in round 19 by correctly spelling seraphic, and seventh graders Kyle Meyer and Josephine Hovis, who’d each picked up errors in rounds 10 and nine respectively.
Tang received his first error in round 21 on precinct. Four straight rounds passed before there was any additional movement, as all four contestants appeared quite evenly matched. In the end, it was Knight who would succumb first, after failing to spell atrocious. Tang then went out on fissure in round 28, and, just like that, classmates Meyer and Hovis were in the final two.
The two went back and forth until round 31, when Hovis failed to spell perpetuity. In order to win, however, Meyer had to spell mackerel correctly. He did not, and Hovis was back in the game. Meyer then failed to spell mollycoddle in round 32, and it was now Hovis’ opportunity to put the contest away.
Before she did, she asked the principal how long this would go on. He said until a winner was produced, or until they ran out of words, which he said they were close to doing. Fortunately, this hurdle did not need to be crossed, as Hovis correctly spelled instinctively, becoming the Cooperstown Middle School Scripps Spelling Bee Champion.
“I’m very proud of all ten of you,” said Cring at the conclusion of the contest, praising the contestants sportsmanship and demeanor.
Plaques were handed out to the first, second and third place students.
When informed later on that Hovis was the first student to make an error, Kring expressed surprise, saying that the student who does that is generally gone in the next two to three rounds. He also said that this was probably the first time that the student who made the first error won it all.
“Good, really good,” said Hovis after the contest, when asked how she felt. “I actually did not expect to win.”
Hovis said that she’d prepared for the spelling bee by studying with her parents, George Hovis and Kim Jastremski, both of whom were at the bee and saw her win.
“The word she missed I’d never heard of,” said George Hovis.
Hovis will be representing Cooperstown at the Regional Spelling Bee at the State University College at Oneonta on March 1, sponsored by The Daily Star. Should she win, she will represent the region at the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington D.C.
When asked about regionals, Hovis said that she would continue to study her spelling bee words.
“I’d say she really has a chance,” said Devon Dickens, a student teacher at Cooperstown and a senior at the State University College at Oneonta who assisted with the Bee, on Hovis’ prospects at regionals.