Oneonta middle-schooler wins Regional Spelling Bee

Jan. 14—For the second year in a row, an eighth-grade student from the Oneonta City School District was crowned champion of The Daily Star Regional Spelling Bee. The bee is a qualifying event for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Richard Tang won the competition in the 15th round of Saturday's spelling bee. He said he went into the competition not really wanting to win, so he didn't feel nervous.

"It felt like a normal situation, not a competition," he said.

He wanted to do his best in the competition, he said, so he studied, and his parents, Jim Li and Sue Tang, conducted mock spelling bees at home. He said he also downloaded the World Club app to practice. The app includes all the words contestants in the Scripps National Spelling Bee may be asked to spell during competition.

Tang said last year's winner, Daanya Butt, gave him some advice about how to prepare for the school and regional competition, including downloading the app and making flash cards.

Now that he's won the competition, Tang said he will "be practicing way more," before the national competition at the end of May. "I look forward to the challenge and meeting new people and making friends," he said.

The competition began with 30 contestants and each round saw competitors bow out by misspelling a word until the 11th round. From the 11th to the 13th, Tang and Cooperstown eighth-grade student Emily Menzies traded correctly spelled words until Menzies misspelled "eaglet" in the 14th round. Menzies also placed second in last year's competition.

Tang said he was rooting for his friend Myles Rouggly, a fellow Oneonta student, to win the regional spelling bee. Rouggly lost in the fourth round after he misspelled "floridly."

This year, the first-place winner and runner up from each school district could compete. The youngest competitor was South Kortright third-grade student Nicholas Nebesnik.

The first contestant knocked out of the competition was Norwich City School sixth-grade student Piper Vandermark in the first round, who stumbled on the word "handle." She knew as soon as she said "h-a-n-d-e-l," it should have been "l-e."

The second round claimed seven students. Roxbury Central School sixth-grade student Michaela Tucker misspelled "condiments" in the second round. Stamford eighth-grade student Tyler Vasta also lost in the second round when he misspelled "raisin." Gilbertsville-Mount Upton sixth-grade student Kristin Gee misspelled "bleat." Stamford eighth-grade student Devon Burnside spelled "tawny incorrectly." Nebesnik misspelled "valiant." Afton seventh grader McKenna Ross misspelled "harmonious." Fellow Afton eighth-grade student Julian Terrell misspelled "bango."

Four students left the competition in the third round. Delaware Academy and Central School sixth grade student Maja Margiotta misspelled "apparel." South Kortright fourth-grade student Brooklynn Trimbell misspelled "millionaire." Edmeston eighth-grade student Hunter Dye misspelled "levity." Worcester Central School sixth-grade student Noah Fyfe misspelled "nerfing."

In addition to Rouggly, four other competitors left in the fourth round. Cherry Valley-Springfield eighth-grade student Noah Morrison misspelled "gumption." Otselic Valley sixth grader Nelson Shoemaker misspelled "exercise." CV-S seventh-grade student Kaitlyn Krester misspelled "heiress." Downsville sixth-grade student Harper Kinch misspelled "innovator."

Two contestants were eliminated in the fifth round. Morris eighth-grade student Hunter McAdams misspelled "dudley." Franklin seventh-grade student George Coulter misspelled "memorandum."

Two contestants were also eliminated in the sixth round. Hailey Zabelicky, a sixth-grade student at Worcester, misspelled "versatile." Bree Peetz, a sixth grader at G-MU, misspelled "recumbent."

Cael Abts, a sixth-grade student at DA, was eliminated in the seventh round when he misspelled "peacenik."

No one was eliminated in the seventh or eighth round. Claire Baldo, a seventh-grade student at Cooperstown, was eliminated in the ninth round when she misspelled "lithophone."

Kendall Gould, a sixth-grade student at Morris, was eliminated in the 10th round when she misspelled "baronetcy."

Throughout the competition, contestants could ask the judges to define the word, repeat the word, use the word in a sentence, ask for the origin of the word or ask if there were any other ways to pronounce the word. This year's judges were Janet Laytham, Julia Suarez-Hayes and Mary Dugan.

Dugan said she's been a judge since after her daughter competed at nationals in 2015 and 2016. "My kids were also in sports, but it's nice to have a competition that celebrates academics," she said.

The competition is sponsored by The Daily Star, which pays for the entry of schools into the regional tournament and will pay for the regional champion's trip to the national competition near Washington, D.C. Daily Star editor Robert Cairns emceed the event. General Manager Valerie Secor presented medals to the competitors and a trophy to Tang.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.