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Lab School Student Heads to Washington, D.C., as Wyoming's Top Speller


March 7, 2009 — Sage Weber, a 13-year-old student from the University of Wyoming Lab School in Laramie, won the Wyoming State Spelling Bee Saturday by correctly spelling capricious.

Twenty-one oral rounds whittled 26 finalists down to a spell-off between Weber, and Marlis Hinckley, a 14-year-old fellow Lab School student.

Placing third was Molly Creager, from Trail Middle School in Torrington.

Because of the rules of the bee, two championship rounds were held. In Round 17, Hinckley missed caballero, and Weber correctly spelled sauerbraten, triggering a championship round for Weber. Her word was comandante, which she missed. That brought Hinckley back, triggering a two-round spell-off. Hinckley missed on madeleine, Weber correctly spelled serdab and then aced her championship word.

Thirty-nine spellers 12 boys and 27 girls from across Wyoming convened in Laramie for the annual bee that determines who competes against top spellers from across the United States in the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held May 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

"The first word (in the oral round) is always the hardest," Weber says. "You have this fear of getting a word and being the first one out. I started having a lot of fun when it was just me and Marlis up there."

In contrast to Weber, who studied the 2009 "Spell It!" word list and used flash cards that her parents tested her on, Hinckley says she didn't study. "I was a little nervous waiting for words, whether I knew them. I had fun."

The students spelled such words as Panglossian, bureaucracy, pochismo and illuminati. To reach the afternoon oral rounds, students were scored on a 100-word written spelling test.

This is the first year the University of Wyoming has hosted the event.

"We're delighted to host an event like this," says Sara Axelson, vice president for student affairs. Axelson's office was among the UW contributors. "I think the spelling bee provides a wonderful venue for high achieving students to showcase their academic talent and see the university. I admire the commitment on the part of students, their parents and educators from their communities in making this a reality."

When previous sponsorship fell through in late 2008, some parents, including Colleen and Bill Weber, rallied to save the state bee.

"We wanted Sage to be able to compete," Colleen Weber says. And it was clear she was a competitive speller. After coming in fourth in the statewide bee last year, she tied for second place in the Albany County bee with fellow speller Rory Eggleston, and Hinckley took the top position in that qualifying competition.

In addition to the host sponsorship provided by UW, the parents enlisted the help of the Wyoming Education Association, the Wyoming Press Association, the Lab School and the organizers of the AARP National Spelling Bee in Cheyenne, which contributed the expertise of its Word Wizard Brian Greene, Pronouncer Dave Lerner and other members of their team to help with the organization of the student state bee.

Scripps was so impressed with the grassroots response that they agreed for this year to provide an all-expense-paid trip for the winner of the Wyoming State Spelling Bee and a chaperone to compete in the national bee in May.

Photo:
Spelling Champ -- University of Wyoming Lab School student Sage Weber receives a large Webster's Dictionary from Kathy Vetter of the Wyoming Education Association. It was one of  Sage's prizes for winning the 2009 Wyoming State Spelling Bee.

Posted on Monday, March 09, 2009

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