Maegan Pete, 11, is consoled by her mother, Tracie Pete, after she misspelled a word several rounds into the sixth-grade spelling bee at Bedford Junior High School. It lasted more than a dozen rounds.
TEMPERANCE — Amid intense competition, Bedford Junior High School has selected three spellers — one from each class — who will compete Wednesday for the school championship.
The single winner there will represent the school at the county competition in May at the Monroe County Intermediate School District.
The spelling bees themselves are a Darwinian process, beginning at the classroom level. The classroom winners from grades six, seven, and eight then advance to the contest for the best speller in their grade, held in the school's media room.
The sixth-grade winner and runner-up are, respectively, Brigham Steiger and Anthony Tomalewski; and for the seventh grade, they are Lauren Linnebur and Zach Cox. The top eighth graders are Macy Whitenberg and Madison Spears.
Seventh-grade English teacher Connie Matlow, who served as the spelling bee judge, said students prepared with an extensive list of the words they could be asked.
In the competition, they were not allowed to start over once they had begun to spell a word, but they could ask the pronouncer, Assistant Principal Heather Johnson, to give a definition or use the word in a sentence.
Young Brigham, the sixth-grade winner, said he practiced for an hour each day in the two weeks leading up to the competition. “It feels good to win,” he said, after taking first place in his class with the correct spelling of “rosary,” after Anthony misspelled it.
His mother, Melinda Steiger of Lambertville, said she helped him practice. She had a front-row seat for the sixth-grade competition.
“I think I was more nervous than he was,” she said.
The sixth-grade spelling bee started with 26 students and went through more than a dozen rounds. By the fifth round, the field was reduced to 14, and by round 10, three survivors remained. Ms. Matlow said she noticed something a little curious about the sixth-grade spellers: They asked for a lot more definitions than the seventh and eighth graders. She had no explanation why.