MONROE - As runner-up at Monroe Middle School, Rami Dahbour wasn't supposed to compete in the countywide spelling bee.
When the winner of his school's spelling contest bowed out, Rami gladly stepped up to pinch hit for Monroe Middle School, joining 34 students from public, parochial, and charter schools in last week's spelling bee. It is one of the oldest educational traditions in Monroe County.
After eight rounds of nail-biting competition, 12-year-old Rami found himself in the final round dueling Alexis McCarroll, a seventh grader at Bedford Junior High.
After each flawlessly spelled their first words, Rami stumbled when given "jaundice," a word Alexis had no problem completing correctly.
Needing one more word to win the bee, Alexis tripped on "luxuriate". Rami got it right and now needed to spell one more word correctly.
Before getting his next word, a very nervous Rami paced the stage. He then breezed through "embezzlement" to win the championship.
Rami's mom, Dr. Basma Abu-Ashour, said her youngest son helped Rami get ready by quizzing him on the word list that was given to students. Each night before bedtime they went over the words, she said.
Rami, a seventh grader who prefers math and science, said he felt somewhat relieved when the word pronouncer gave him "embezzlement."
It was a word that he knew how to spell.
"I stuck to the word list. But I got lucky," he said. "I thought I was dreaming for a second. It was hard for me to believe I got that word."
Rami comes from a family of outstanding spellers. His older brother, Layth Dahbour, was runner-up in the county's 2004 spelling bee.
Concerned that her son would work himself into a nervous wreck, Dr. Abu-Ashour said she told him
before the spelling bee to relax and have fun.
Rami carries a 4.0 grade-point average and is a member of his school's National Honor Society.
For his winning efforts, Rami was awarded the Monroe County Spelling Bee trophy and an electronic word speller.
Alexis, as runner-up, received the electronic speller, silver medal, and computer software.
Rounding out the top 10 were Todd Sachs of St. Charles School, Brad Sherman of Ida Middle School, Christian Lucas of Holy Ghost Lutheran Justin Mondal of Jefferson Middle School, Reid Olmstead of Summerfield Junior High, Nathan Kubik of St. Michael School, Krisztina Lawrence of Waterloo Elementary, and Allison Grim of Temperance Road Elementary.