Bear wins the bee

LISBON – It was a forward slash. Sash Davis thrust his arms forward and slashed through the air with gusto after properly spelling “virgule” in the 13th round of the county spelling bee Wednesday night.

Virgule is the word for what is commonly known as the forward slash on computer keyboards.

Davis, a Leetonia seventh-grader, secured the champion title after correctly spelling bureaucracy in the 14th round.

Shawn Greathouse of Leetonia and Aaron Kemats of Lisbon dropped out of the 13th round after incorrectly spelling adagio and precipice.

The win was hard-won, with Davis battling at least five rounds with three competitors, Greathouse, Kemats and Bryce Owen of Salem.

Owen was knocked out in round 12 when presented with the word ocarina, which not only baffled himself, but the audience as well.

A smattering of laughter could be heard throughout the auditorium as it was clear a majority of people there knew had they been in his place, they too wouldn’t have spelled it properly.

Owen was ushered back to his seat to the sound of hearty applause for at least attempting to spell the word. Ocarina is a wind instrument.

Kemats was also baffled by his word, precipice.

He admitted he only began studying the night before the bee and had not heard the word before. A week before he participated in a math competition at Ohio State University.

The eighth-grader won’t be able to participate in any more school bees, but he’s not discouraged by the placement. He was named first runner-up.

“What’s important is that I placed so high,” he said.

Greathouse was visibly disappointed he was unable to spell adagio, but he’s going to try again next year, he said.

He made it to the final rounds by properly spelling words like babushka, Imam and chimichanga.

He and Kemats shared the first runner-up position as a result of the duration of the bee. The final round ended shortly after 8:15 p.m.

Owen said he still remembers it was the word tamale that knocked him out the county bee last year. He landed second runner-up this time.

Davis was also a competitor in last year’s bee. He credited last night’s win to the fact that spelling just seems to come easy for him, and also because he studied using the online program Big IQ Kids.

He said he thought the bee was going to be easy after the first few rounds, but when spellers began dropping off in groups during the fourth and fifth rounds he began to get nervous.

He knew it was serious when he and the three other competitors faced off round after round.

He said he could hear the spellers already knocked out of the competition whispering from their chairs, “C’mon, someone mess up,” as they fidgeted in their seats waiting for a winner.

“I thought it was going to go on 20 rounds,” he said.

His mother, Rosalie Davis, said he studied for at least an hour a day and had the list of words memorized.

He beat out a total of 47 spellers, including Cade Berg of United Local schools, who represented the county at the National Bee in 2011.

In the end he dedicated the win to his friend, Salem student Brittany Gulu, who passed away on March 3 following a car accident.

The 54th annual spelling bee was held at Lisbon David Anderson High School and was co-sponsored by the Morning Journal, Salem News, Review and the Columbiana County Educational Service Center.

The three newspapers provided the awards, which were a trophy, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Samuel Louis Sugarman Award Certificate a 2013 United States Mint Proof Set, and one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online for Davis.

Kemats and Greathouse received trophies and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionaries- Eleventh Edition for sharing first runner-up, and Owen received a trophy for second runner-up.

The three newspapers will also cover expenses for Davis and a chaperone to attend the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. May 26-31.