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Lawrence County spelling bee participants. Holli Leep (front left) was the second place winner, while Emily Neal (front right) took first.

Lawrence County spelling bee participants. Holli Leep (front left) was the second place winner, while Emily Neal (front right) took first.

Chesapeake Middle student wins again at county spelling bee

Two familiar faces faced off and took the top two spots in the county spelling bee in Ironton on Wednesday.

After a little more than one hour and 35 rounds of spelling, Emily Neal, an eighth grader at Chesapeake Middle School, won the bee, with Holli Leep, an eighth grader at Fairland Middle School, landing the runner up position.

Neal, who was born deaf and is able to communicate with the aid of a Cochlear implant, is a frequent finalist and winner of the bee, having taken second place to Leep in 2014, first place in 2013, first place in 2012, second place in 2011 and first place in 2010.

“It feels good,” Neal said of her victory in the eventat the Ironton City Center.

Neal’s vocabulary expertise was made clear during the competition, when, at one point, she correctly guessed a word’s language of origin when asking the judges.

The 16 school winners, ranging from fourth to eighth grades, took turns spelling words such as “vigilante,” “vulcanize,” “worrywart,” which were read by Doug Korstanje, the director of marketing and community relations for St. Mary’s Medical Center. A former reporter with WSAZ and graduate of Chesapeake High, he has served as the bee’s pronouncer for three years.

The climatic moment came when Leep misspelled “dossier.” She had asked for and was granted the word used in a sentence, as well as its language of origin, which the judges were unable to provide.

Following this, Neal correctly spelled “periphery,” then, needing to spell one more word correctly in order to be declared the champion spelled, “macramé.”

Leep, who serves on Fairland’s student council, won the county bee last year, and qualified for the regional bee at Ohio University in Athens, where she placed second.

Adam Fleeman of Rock Hill Middle School’s eighth grade, took third place.

Following victory at the county level, winners have to pass an online test in order to compete in the regional bee in March. Neal placed second in the 2014 regional event and third in 2013.

The competition ends with the Scripps National Spelling Bee, on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C.

As eighth graders, Neal and Leep were in their last year of eligibility to compete in the annual event, which is open to students up to their grade level or the age of 15.

James Payne, the superintendent for Lawrence County Educational Service Center, spoke of the value of the bee, which is aimed to promote language and vocabulary.

“It shows there might be a little bit more to education than state testing,” he said, citing events such as the science fair and quiz bowl.