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With each turn at the microphone, Spencer Hipsher, 13, remembered the advice of his mother, Lynn.
He took a deep breath and pictured himself winning.
Through more than two hours of competitive spelling Tuesday night, plus a spell-off, he got there.
PHOTOS: Blade Spelling bee
With his spelling of the word lenitive -- alleviating pain or acrimony -- Spencer, a seventh grader at St. Wendelin School in Fostoria, became champion of the 2012 Blade Northwest Ohio Championship Spelling Bee, held at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township.
"I'm just kind of in shock a little bit," said Spencer, who lives in Hancock County's Washington Township.
His father, Ron, was too: "It really hasn't sunk in," Mr. Hipsher said.
Moments after the bee, Spencer's father embraced him. He then looked into Spencer's face, put a hand on his son's back, and said, "I'm so proud of you, Bud."
Spencer will receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington for the Scripps National Spelling Bee the week of May 27. Other prizes included a Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, a $100 savings bond, and a championship plaque.
His parents will accompany him to Washington. He had a full cheering section Tuesday night, including grandmothers Leah Hipsher and Marlyn Angles, two teachers, and two friends.
Spencer spelled in the northwest Ohio championship bee last year and finished in the Top 15.
For this year's competition, "I just prepared more because I knew it was a harder experience," Spencer said.
Preparing more meant "maybe not playing games as much and hanging out with my friends," he said.
And it meant night after night of spelling back the words his parents pronounced for him.
"He has worked really hard to get this far," his father said. "It's a tough competition and to win is quite a feat."
On stage at Owens, Spencer was calm as he spelled cantata, barrage, salmonella, oratorio, solace, pullet, polarizable, and umbilicate.
Then in Round 9, he and Sarah Pohlman-Beshuk, 13, a sixth grader at Fallen Timbers Middle School in the Anthony Wayne district, were the only spellers left out of 51 who began.
Sarah missed twoling (a twin crystal), but Spencer missed suggestible. She got juggins (one easily victimized), and he missed minacious (of a threatening character), but she missed iambist (one who writes a type of metrical verse) and reparations.
Spencer went on to spell Ebola (any of several filoviruses of African origin) and lenitive.
Sarah of Whitehouse, the daughter of Wendy Pohlman and Dave Beshuk, was quizzed regularly by her mother.
She too competed last year and was sixth. She was modest about her first runner-up finish this year.
"I got some of the easiest words, I thought," Sarah said.
Sarah's prizes included a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and a spelling bee plaque.
Zach Marcha, 12, a seventh grader at McPherson Middle School in Clyde, became second runner-up in a spell-off with Conor Cadigan of Immaculate Conception School, Port Clinton.
Zach, whose parents are Kristii and Ernie Marcha, received a spelling bee plaque.
The pronouncer for the bee was Russell Bodi, a professor of English at Owens and director of its honors program. The judges were Debby Geyer, The Blade's Newspaper in Education coordinator; Gayle Ashbridge, an assistant director of the Ohio Articulation & Transfer Network, and Bailey Shoemaker Richards, 2003 and 2004 Northwest Ohio spelling champion. The auditor was the northwest Ohio bee coordinator, Paula Emery of The Blade.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.