17 rounds to win (WITH GALLERY)

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

Fairland student takes first place in lengthy Lawrence County Spelling Bee

This year’s Lawrence County Spelling Bee brought together a particularly gifted group of spellers, with the event stretching into 17 rounds and taking longer than usual to narrow the competition.

In fact, the first several rounds went by without any of the 18 students, who were winners at bees at their individual schools, misspelling.

Trinity Massey, of Ironton schools, writes out a word with her finger during the Lawrence County Spelling Bee on Thursday. Massey came in third place in the competition. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

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Successive rounds had them taking on spellings of words like “cirrhosis,” “Arcturus,” “kumkum,” “doppelgänger” and “kirpan.”

The level of difficulty increased with each round, so much so that, at one point, pronouncer Ernie Anderson had to skip a word, finding its pronunciation too difficult.

“I don’t think I could do that one justice,” he said, calling for a new word.

In the end, after most spellers were eliminated, the final competitors had done so well, they used up the allotted list of words, which increased in difficulty and were provided to them in advance to study.

At that point, Anderson said they would start from a list of word provided by Merriam-Webster, which would be new to the spellers.

“They have not had an opportunity to study this list,” he said.

The competition came down to Meredith Dunlap, of Fairland schools, Trinity Massey, of Ironton, and Ryan Wood, of Chesapeake.

After Massey misspelled, coming in third place, Dunlap and Wood went on for a few more rounds.

In the final round, Dunlap correctly spelled her word, and it was Wood’s turn at the microphone.

He was given “noticeably,” but misspelled, leaving off the “e.”

Since she had already spelled a word correctly in that round, Dunlap had to only get the next word correct to win the bee.

She was asked to spell “frigid,” and did so correctly, taking the trophy.

Meredith Dunlap, a sixth grader at Fairland Middle School, was the winner of the Lawrence County Spelling Bee on Thursday after successfully spelling “frigid.” (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Dunlap, a sixth grader at Fairland Middle School, said it was her first time taking part in the competition.

“It feels really good,” she said of the win.

She said, in preparation for the event, her parents, Maryanne and Brian Dunlap, had quizzed her on the words and she had used an online app to study.

The Dunlaps will have to make space for another trophy in their home. Meredith’s older sister, Molly, won the county bee in 2018 as a fifth grader and competed at the regional level at Ohio University in Athens in 2019 and 2020.

“I’m very proud,” Brian said of Meredith. “She worked really hard.”

When asked which of her words she found the most difficult, Meredith answered with “roulette.”

When she isn’t spelling, she said she takes part in basketball, soccer and cross country.

Angie Wireman, Fairland Middle’s librarian, who served as the school’s spelling bee coordinator, said it was “exciting” to see her student win.

“My hands were sweating,” she said.

Dunlap’s win follows last year’s bee, when Emily Ferguson, also of Fairland Middle, won.

“We’re on a winning streak,” Wireman said.

She said Dunlap “comes from along line of spellers,” and pointed to her sister’s win, as well her brother, also Mitchell, taking part in the county bee.

Sandy Joseph, the assistant principal at Fairland West Elementary, knew all of the Dunlaps from when they attended her school.

Landon Dehart, of South Point schools, asks pronouncer Ernie Anderson for a definition for a word during the Lawrence County Spelling Bee on Thursday at Ironton High School. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

“They’re all outstanding,” she said, noting that their mother works as a teacher at Fairland East Elementary.

Joseph was there to represent the school district, also accompanying Rease Rice, of the elementary, who competed.

“We’re very proud of both girls,” she said.

Those who won their school bees are also eligible to take an online spelling test in February, with the top scorers qualifying for the regional bee at Ohio University in March.

Dunlap said she would definitely try for it, as did Wood.

The son of Misty and Brian Wood, he said he worked with family in anticipation for the event.

“I called my grandmother on some nights,” he said. “And we went over words.”

A seventh grader at Dawson-Bryant Middle School. He said he had previously taken part in the county bee, and had improved his placement this year.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it.

Other participants in this year’s bee were: Anna Silk and Ella Hayes, of Chesapeake; Rykker Fields, of Dawson-Bryant; Riley Winters, of Ironton; Beckett Heighton and Mason Weber, of Ironton Catholic; Meredith Rogers and Marlea Depriest, of Rock Hill; Landon Dehart and Sean Bradburn II (who qualified, but was absent), of South Point; Madison Beckett and Jonathon Coriell, of Symmes Valley; and Landon Parker and Nolan Pinkerman, of Sugar Creek Christian Academy.

The spelling bee is organized by the Lawrence County Educational Services Center.