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Rookie speller wins bee

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The diocesan spelling bee came down to Cody Kazmierczak from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale and eighth-grader Erin Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII in Scottsdale. Hailey Barrell from Ss. Simon and Jude and Lianna Nemeth from St. Gregory finished third and fourth. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The diocesan spelling bee came down to Cody Kazmierczak from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale and eighth-grader Erin Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII in Scottsdale. Hailey Barrell from Ss. Simon and Jude and Lianna Nemeth from St. Gregory finished third and fourth. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

For next year’s spelling bee hopefuls, studying the trends of this year’s contest may be of service.

It may be helpful to know certain words like “déjà vu” or least the definition since non-English words are prohibited. Four of the 26 contestants reported advancing to the diocesan spelling bee in years past.

Two had an invisible triple crown: eighth-graders Susan Peters from St. Theresa and Erin Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII in Scottsdale. Both earned their third trip to the diocesan spelling bee Jan. 29 at St. Francis Xavier School. They ultimately finished in the top six.

“Premiere,” might be another good word to know. Many students deemed the top speller at their school made their first trip to the diocesan spelling bee. Lianna Nemeth, an eighth-grader at St. Gregory, was one of them.

Lianna Nemeth from St. Gregory (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Lianna Nemeth from St. Gregory (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

She came in third during last year’s bee at her school. It lasted roughly 26 rounds. This year, it took less than half the time, about 12 rounds, for Nemeth to out spell her classmates.

She often used a finger to “write” the word on her hand as she spelled out loud during the diocesan bee. The move put her closer to the winner’s chair by Round 12 when David Gonsalves, the “pronouncer,” gave her the word “vicinity.” She couldn’t neglect her next word, “indispensable,” and bowed out the following round, finishing fourth.

In Round 15, Hailey Barrell from Ss. Simon and Jude didn’t make any mistakes spelling “erasable,” but had trouble with “physicist” the following round. That left students from both Catholic schools in Scottsdale: Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII and seventh grader Cody Kazmierczak from Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The pair proved to be equally talented spellers going another 15 rounds back and forth — every challenge coming from the “extra words” list.

Kazmierczak, a rookie in the diocesan bee, had his first chance at victory with “inoculation,” his second word in the showdown. Hearing the definition and its use in a sentence still didn’t help him put the right letters in order though.

Erin Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII School in Scottsdale (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Erin Sweeney from Blessed Pope John XXIII School in Scottsdale (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A couple of rounds later confidence was back in both spellers. Sweeney had no trouble spelling “dilemma.” Then Kazmierczak didn’t hesitate spelling “impediment.” Words like “hydraulic” and “chronometer” later tripped both of them as did “dirigible,” “incumbent” and “anisette.”

“I struggled with some,” Sweeney admitted after the nearly two-hour spelling bee finally ended.

She recalled “incumbent” as one of the challenging words even though she remains the “incumbent” top speller at Blessed Pope John XXIII. Studying daily for 30 minutes helped, however as did asking for definitions of words, a tactic she only applied twice.

Both moves put her in second place in the diocesan bee topping her seventh- and eighth-place finishes the last two years.

It was Kazmierczak from OLPH in Scottsdale who finally claimed the spelling crown this year. Kazmierczak, an avid reader, had never entered a spelling bee before. He said the school-level contest went fast. As for what helped him in both spelling bees:

“I just read a lot,” Kazmierczak said. “I pretty much read anything.”

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