PLATTSBURGH - How does Alyssa Szczypien spell victory? N-A-R-C-I-S-S-I-S-M.
The final word of the Champlain Valley Educational Services Regional Spelling Bee was chocked full of irony as Alyssa humbly spoke of her victory over 61 other contestants Feb. 26 at Plattsburgh High School. Not showing an ounce of conceit, the Peru Central School District seventh-grader spoke modestly of her accomplishment following the competition.
"It was hard work, but it was really worth it," said Alyssa, who shrugged off any notion her win made her a standout speller.
However, Alyssa's father, John Szczypien, spoke proudly of his daughter.
"She's been studying, at least the past three or four weeks, pretty hard," he said. "She's always been a very good student."
The competition was fierce following a written round, which left only 17 children in grades 4-8 vying for the title of champion. One by one, students were eliminated, including returning champion Leo Lee who stumbled on the word "keratitis" in Round 8.
After the 10th round, it came down to two contestants - Alyssa and Lysbeth Buchanan, a seventh-grader from North Country School in Lake Placid. The two went round for round spelling and even misspelling words like "quadrivial," "olivaceous," "rubefacient" and "teratological" - words that seemed to hit both contestants like a "blitzkrieg" - which was yet another spelling word thrown at the seventh-graders during the challenge.
After Lysbeth missed the word "roux," Alyssa correctly spelled "pongee" before going on to her championship word.
"I partly knew the word because on the packet we had received in the mail, the other word on the packet was narcissistically," said Alyssa. "It was pretty similar to the word narcissism, so I tried to spell it like that."
Alyssa's best guess won her the regional bee title and a chance to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this June in Washington, D.C., courtesy of North Country Parents for the National Spelling Bee and the Press-Republican - the regional spelling bee's co-sponsors.
"It was nail-biting," Szczypien said of watching his daughter compete. "Especially, toward the end. It was back and forth like a tennis match."
"I can't even express the feelings I'm feeling right now," he added.
Alyssa said she looks forward to the national spelling bee and plans to continue her routine of studying an hour a day and whenever else she can find time.
"I'm just a little nervous," said Alyssa. "Nervous, yet a little excited because this is my chance to show who I am to the world and to shine."
(Correction: In the March 6 edition of the Clinton County Free Trader Today, a line in this story was inadvertently omitted. Due to the pagination error, a line stating the national bee will be held in Washington, D.C., and listing North Country Parents for the National Spelling Bee as a co-sponsor of the regional spelling bee, was omitted.)