From left to right, George Rock of the Press-Republican, Nicolas Manfred, and Larry Barcomb, president of the Champlain Valley Educational Services Board.
The room fell silent as Hailey Ann Aube walked up to the microphone.
“Tuna,” said the sixth grader from Moriah Central School as all eyes at a packed gymnasium at Seton Catholic Central focused on her. “T. U. N. A. Tuna.”
She looked to the judges as the green flag went up, signaling her success.
Tuna kicked off the 2012 Champlain Valley Educational Services Regional Spelling Bee Friday March 2 hosted by Hayley LaPoint, a meteorologist for WPTZ.
“Their motivation, poise and courage have brought them here,” she said. “Despite tonight’s outcome, they are all winners.”
The event occurs yearly and covers Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, with the Press-Republican acting as the media sponsor. School districts send their grade-level winners to the regional bee, while the winner of Friday night’s event qualifies for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.
“It is an academic competition, which gives students an opportunity to study words and learn the origins of words and learn to spell words and understand the vocabulary of the word,” said Jane Landry of Champlain Valley Educational Services.
She believes it is a great program and opportunity for students. They are able to participate in an academic competition and compete against other schools, meeting students from around the region.
Elaine Rice, reader for the regional spelling bee, advised students not to rush through words and to remember to say the word so judges know they heard it.
Each student had two and a half minutes to complete the word.
Orange followed tuna, and then cotton, as Rice said, “That shirt is made of 100 percent cotton,” using each word in a sentence to ensure students understood it.
The word zero inspired a sentence about the local weather as Rice said, “We have had just a few days with below-zero temperatures.”
Opera was the first word that presented a problem, as a young woman spelled it wrong, returning to her seat in tears as the tournament went on.
Other words that posed a problem during the first round included melba, mentor, mammoth and gruff.
The word pickle, spelled correctly, ended the first round.
Round two started with embargo, spelled correctly, followed by the words canary, rupture, library, canine, and measure, which the more than 60 students in grades four through eight got right.
Students stumbled on words such as wanderlust and democracy, with diagnosis marking the end of the second round.
The event included a third oral round and a written fourth round.
Moriah Central School student Nicolas Manfred earned the title of Spelling Bee grand champion, as well as the seventh-grade title, by spelling the word “quinine” correctly.
Individual grade-level winners for this year’s bee were: Plattsburgh City Schools student Gareth Mansfield, fourth grade; Plattsburgh student Jeremy Cui, fifth grade; Saranac Central student Kenna Fasking, sixth grade; and Jillian Dean from Willsboro Central School, eighth grade.
Manfred also won a savings bond, one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, a gift certificate to Amazon.com, a Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and a Valerie’s Supplement spelling-word resource.
Manfred further will attend the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., later this year.
“It feels good,” Manfred said.