Appropriately r-e-w-a-r-d-i-n-g

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2023

16 students from schools across the county qualified to compete in this year’s Lawrence County Spelling Bee. Participants were winners in their individual school bees. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Fairland Middle School student wins county bee for second consecutive year

If there’s one last name organizers of the Lawrence County Spelling Bee should have mastered the spelling of by now, it’s “Dunlap.”

The winner of Thursday’s competition, which took place at Ironton High School was Fairland Middle School student Meredith Dunlap, who won for the second consecutive year.

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“It feels really good,” she said of her victory. “I’m really proud of myself.”

And Meredith, a seventh grader and the daughter of Maryanne and Brian Dunlap, is continuing a winning tradition for her family for the event. 

First place winner Meredith Dunlap and runner-up Landon Dehart are presented with trophies by Lawrence County ESC superintendent Eric Floyd at the conclusion of the 2023 county spelling bee on Thursday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Her older sister, Molly, was county champion in 2018.

The event, organized by the Lawrence County Educational Service Center and held at Ironton High School, had 16 participants, all of whom were winners in their individual school bees.

This year’s bee went considerably longer than a typical event, well exceeding last year’s 17 rounds.

Word began simple, the increased in difficulty, with students correctly spelling “antechamber,” perpendicularity” and ellipsis”

Eventually, the field was narrowed down to three students — Ella Hayes, of Chesapeake Middle School, who took third, then the final two — Dunlap and Landon Dehart, of South Point Middle School. 

It went on so long that, at the point of 40 rounds, the bee departed from the Scripps list of words that students had studied prior to the event, instead switching to a list of words from Merriam Webster, which, while not as difficult, had not been seen by the participants prior to the event.

Students taking part in the 2023 Lawrence County Spelling Bee were given a commemorative T-shirt, printed by students at Rock Hill High School. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Madison Beckett, of Sugar Creek Christian Academy, spells in an early round of the 2023 Lawrence County Spelling Bee on Thursday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Dunlap and Dehart continued for several rounds as the final two, until Dehart, who was competing at the county level for his second time, eventually misspelled “falsehood” in the 42nd round.

At that point, Dunlap was given the word “rewarding,” which correctly spelled to win the competition.

Those who took part in the bee, as school winners, are no eligible to take an online test to qualify for the regional bee, which will take place next year.

Other participants this year were Madison Beckett and Mason Campbell, of Sugar Creek Christian Academy, Regan Blake, of South Point, Jonathan Coriell and Maci Gilbert, of Symmes Valley, Marlea Depriest and Nova Russell, of Rock Hill, Trenton Egnor, of Fairland, Maci Gabehart and Isabell Holton, of Dawson-Bryant, Trystan Grim, of Chesapeake, and Adie Leffingwell and Briella Strickland, of Ironton.

Eric Floyd, in his first year of superintendent for the ESC, told the participants that, as a child, it was always his dream to be onstage for a spelling bee, and joked that it took him until he was superintendent to get there.

“Every one of you should hold your head up proud today,” he said.