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The best of the spellers

March 13, 2011

LINCOLN — Caroline Moore seemed to know immediately she had added a “u” where it didn't belong.
In the seventh round of the annual Rhode Island Spelling Bee Championship held Saturday morning at the Lincoln Middle School auditorium, the Wheeler School eighth-grader had just been asked to spell “thoroughbred.”
She had begun enunciating the letters “t-h-o-u,” then hesitated. Unable to start over due to rules governing the bee, Moore continued, spelling the rest of the word perfectly. Chief judge Dr. Donna Morelle, the Cumberland Superintendent of Schools, quickly stated “Incorrect,” and Moore walked off the stage to join her parents, Tom and Liz, and brother Hunter in the audience.
“I think I stuck an extra 'u' in there, and I shouldn't have,” the Lincoln resident said afterward. “I'm a little bummed. I wasn't really expecting to win anyway, but as the rounds kept going and the (other) kids misspelled words, I thought I had a chance.”
Turns out, Moore — who qualified as an independent school representative representing — finished fourth overall, and found some solace in that she bettered her 2010 placement by about nine spots.
“I'm happy with it,” she explained. “A little disappointed, but that's OK.”
Everything was more than OK for Jessica Anderson, a eighth-grader from Cranston who is home-schooled by her mom and dad, Dawn and Jeffrey. By 11:30 a.m., nearly 75 minutes after the contest's start, she had claimed the title.
“It feels so good to win,” she grinned, still standing on the stage as nearby officials explained to Dawn Anderson her daughter had just snared an expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, slated for June 1-2 in Washington, D.C. “This is my third time here in the state finals; I finished 10th two years ago and fourth last year.
“I figured with all of the years I've been competing, this would be my best chance because I'm older, I'm in eighth grade and I've studied more this time,” she added. “I spent at least an hour a day practicing … I'm still surprised, but this is really cool. I've never been to school a day in my life. My mom helps me with most of my subjects, except for math, which my dad helps me with.”
Stated father Jeffrey: “This has been a wonderful experience. To be truthful, in the back of her mind, I think she was pretty confident with this being her third time around. I think she thought she had a chance.”
In the ninth round, only Anderson and Kieran McGartoll, a Barrington Middle School eighth-grader, remained in the hunt for the title, but the latter missed on “scuttlebutt,” as he left out the final ‘t.’
Anderson then nailed “indiscretion.” And when Erin Kennedy, the WPRI-TV and WNAC-TV news anchor and Rhode Island State Spelling Bee pronouncer, asked her to spell “corollary” as the championship word, she did. Applause immediately filled the room.
Anderson outdueled 26 other district champions who had trekked to Lincoln for the finals, including nine hailing from the Blackstone Valley. Among them: Moore; Winston Jiang, a Lincoln Middle School eighth-grader; Jillian Cash, a Burrillville MS sixth-grader; Christiana Pina, a sixth-grader from Central Falls who attends The Learning Academy Charter School; Abigail Weiner, a North Cumberland MS seventh-grader; Julianna Belisle, a fifth-grader from Fogarty Memorial School in Foster/Glocester; Jared Briere, a Woonsocket MS sixth-grader; Elizabeth Votta, a fifth-grader at Halliwell Memorial School in North Smithfield; and Shannon Fortier, an eighth-grader at Smithfield's Gallagher MS.
Actually, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education Deborah Gist kicked off the bee with a “warm-up” round while judges Morelle, Citizens Bank Branch Manager Gina Myre and Community College of Rhode Island English Professor Leigh Martin listened carefully to each student's pronunciations.
Jiang, who bested approximately 18 competitors to win the Lincoln School District crown about a month ago, seemed to be clicking when he rolled through such words as “sultan,” “Flemish,” “plateau” and “liverwurst.”
Unfortunately, he couldn't finagle the word “deductible” at the start of the fifth round.
“I think I know how to spell it – now,” Jiang explained. “I'm not upset, but it's not like I don't care, either. I think I just should've put an 'i' in where the 'a” was. I'm disappointed, but I'll survive.”
Votta made it to the sixth round before misspelling “fluoride.”
Moore, on the other hand, sailed through her list of words, including “oolong (a dark tea from China and Taiwan that is partly fermented before being dried),” “conjecture,” “geoponics,” “suave,” “referendum” and “hospice.”
“Being her mother, I always thought she had a chance,” Liz Moore chuckled. “As she got closer to the end, I continued to think that, but she just missed on 'thoroughbred.' We're all still very proud of her.”
For those wondering about her road to the championship, Anderson, who wore No. 15, remained perfect on such words as “diorama,” “pinafore,” “hydrology,” “rotunda,” “replaceable,” “mortgage” and “epilepsy” before the final two.
“I'll never forget those two words (indiscretion and corollary),” she giggled. “I can't wait to go to Washington!”

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