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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

Spelling bee victor, 12, makes habit of winning

Priyanka Jain, an eighth grader at Ottawa Hills Junior High School, cor- rectly spells `peregrination' to win the bee at Owens Community College. Priyanka Jain, an eighth grader at Ottawa Hills Junior High School, cor- rectly spells `peregrination' to win the bee at Owens Community College.

Orthography was the order of the evening at Owens Community College last night as 57 anxious youngsters from nine counties competed for the chance to travel to Washington in May to represent the area in the National Spelling Bee.

This year's winner had a familiar name. That's because she's Priyanka Jain, an eighth grader at Ottawa Hills Junior High School.

Priyanka was last year's winner; in Washington she made it to the final day of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, finishing 35th in the country.

This year, the two words that gave her the first-place finish: “ebullient” and “peregrination.”

In the final elimination, the 12-year-old was cool as a cucumber as she and her opponent, Douglas Dreier of Fassett Middle School in Oregon, vied for first place.

The final heat was a sudden-death duel.

Douglas went first and misspelled ebullient. The rules required Priyanka to spell that word and another correctly to win. She did, and the rest is history.

Where does the girl get her talent?

“She reads a lot - constantly,” explained her beaming mother, Juhi Jain. Priyanka's father, who proudly snapped photos of his daughter, is Dr. Navin Jain, a pulmonologist.

Priyanka, for her part, didn't seem at all caught up in the excitement of her big win. She said she studied the booklet that all competing spellers were given and took it from there.

If anything, the earlier words Priyanka fielded - including “subaltern,” “nonet,” “sanguinolent,” and “croustade” - were more challenging than the ones that gave her the top spot.

Douglas said he also studied the spelling bee booklet and enjoys reading. The third-place winner was Bailey Shoemaker Richards of St. Michael's Catholic School in Findlay.

Priyanka also will get a dictionary, a $100 Savings Bond, a $50 gift certificate, and a backpack, sweatshirt, and T-shirt.

Douglas and Bailey will get gift certificates and T-shirts as well.

Pronouncer Frank Venner, former WTVG-TV, Channel 13, news director, guided the spellers through seven rounds.

“I feel as if I've been doing this for a million years,” Mr. Venner said to laughter from the audience. He's been the bee's only pronouncer since its inception more than a dozen years ago.

The words in the early rounds were easy enough - “chocolate,” “footage,” and “pagan,” for example. But the level of difficulty rose steadily.

The bee is open to the top spellers in grades five through eight from schools in Lucas, Wood, Hancock, Henry, Ottawa, Putnam, Seneca, and Wyandot counties.

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