Burdensome words like “fandango” or “satiety” did not dispirit eighth-grader Aaron Harris, who dominated the 2014 St. Croix district spelling bee on Friday afternoon at the John H. Woodson Junior High School auditorium.
The 41st annual St. Croix spelling bee allowed 20 students from private, public and parochial schools to vie for the title of the St. Croix district’s top speller.
Spelling bee coordinator Cheryl Jeremiah-Ambrose was the mistress of ceremonies; she commended the students for participating in the spelling bee, calling it a “special occasion,” and said she was thrilled to see the room filled with well-wishers who came out to support the contestants.
Cheryl Willocks, Department of Education curriculum and instruction director, urged the students to ask the judges and pronouncers to repeat the word if it was unclear, to ask for the origin, the part of speech and to use the word in a sentence.
“One person will be a champion, but all of you are winners,” Willocks said.
The room was housed with family, friends and coaches who all remained tight lipped when the spellers began delivering the words; however, when the spellers repeated the word correctly, applause and cheers echoed sharply in the auditorium.
After receiving the spelling bee rules and completing a practice round, the students were all hyped and ready for the bee. With 20 intense rounds, Harris, a student at St. Patrick’s School, was the last one standing to win the spelling bee.
Harris won the bee with the winning word “roustabout” – an unskilled laborer. He said in the past, he participated in four spelling bees and won three.
“I love spelling bees,” Harris said. “I felt ecstatic and elated that I could take part.”
In preparation for the competition, Harris worked with Lydia Davis, his spelling bee coach. He also spent two hours each day at school and at home. Harris said reading frequently also helps him to prepare for the competition.
“I studied hard, trained consistently at home, school and on my free time,” he said.
Harris was one of the spellers who remained articulate and confident throughout the competition. He took the spelling bee challenge by easily spelling words like “fiery” and “stipple.” He spelled somewhat challenging words like “lingua franca” and “bric-a-brac” effortlessly causing the audience to gasp every time.
Harris said this will be his last year taking part in spelling. Eighth grade is officially the last year for students to participate in spelling bee competitions. He said it’s great to leave with a “bang.”
Khaien Donawa, second-place winner, spelled challenging words like “mammalian” and “tangible.” Donawa, a sixth-grader at the Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, remained calm when he got words with homonyms and alternate pronunciations. He focused throughout the competition by closing his eyes when spelling each word in every round.
St. Croix’s top six spellers will head to the St. Thomas-St. John district for the territorial spelling pee on March 7.
The top six spellers for this year’s St. Croix District Bee include Harris, Donawa, Taiesha Williams, Jenna Honore, Letisha Ayala and Tyanna Johnson. They received a trophy, medal and certificate.
All of the participants received a certificate and a bag filled with a dictionary, pencil and ruler.
Harris received an iPad for winning the bee; Donawa received a Kindle; and Williams, third place winner, got an electronic dictionary.
The winner of the territorial bee will represent the Virgin Islands at the annual Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
Sponsors for the district bee include the Department of Education, Carambola Hotel, WTJX Channel 12, St. Croix Lions Club, Scholastic Inc., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Buccaneer Hotel, Pearson Digital and The Virgin Islands Daily News.