MIAMI COUNTY — The communities of Troy and Piqua were abuzz Thursday night, as both held their city-wide spelling bees, giving students from each school in their respective districts to show off their alphabetic acumen.
Much like his championship word, sixth-grader Abraham Cherian of Van Cleve Elementary in Troy showed great “inertia” after his win at last year’s Troy City Spelling Bee, returning yet again to score a second consecutive victory on Thursday night.
The bee was held at Troy High School, and featured 12 participants from Troy area schools. All previously won grand champion at his or her respective school bee.
Serving as judges at the bee were retired Hook Elementary educator John Gibbons, retired Cookson educator Nancy Johnson, Beth Landfair of Troy Christian Elementary, Katy Miller of St. Patrick School, and Andrea Weigand of Miami Montessori School.
Michael Rasey served as pronouncer, delivering words to each contestant with accompanying origin, definition, and usage in a sentence upon request.
In rounds six through 17, Cherian went head-to-head against eighth-grader Kierstan Swihart of Troy Christian Junior High, each spelling words such as “cavalier,” “hermitage,” “brilliantine,” “gingitivitis,” “zeppelin,” and “venatic.” Three championship words were mispelled along the way, including “harangue,” “drupaceous,” and “kukupa.”
After a slight stumble on the word, “reprimand,” Swihart left an opening for Cherian to attempt his championship word — “inertia.”
After Cherian’s first Troy City Spelling Bee victory in 2018, he went on to compete in the Dayton Spelling Bee, where he placed second. The sixth-grader expressed great satisfaction in his repeat win.
“I’m just happy to get to do it, and I’m glad that I won,” Cherian said. “I want to give all the glory to God. I’d also like to thank my parents for helping me study.”
“I feel really good,” said Swihart, participating in her second Troy City Spelling Bee. “I’d like to thank my sister, Kalista, for helping me study a lot.”
Other competing participants, listed alphabetically, included fourth grader Justin Caplinger (Heywood Elementary), fifth grader Kenzy Copas (Hook Elementary), fourth grader Maxwell Erdahl (Concord Elementary), eighth grader Hallie Frigge (Troy Junior High), sixth grader Caroline Klawon (St. Patrick School), fifth grader Olivia McGhee (Kyle Elementary), fourth grader Caroline Rohlfs (Forest Elementary), Jack Rowe (Troy Christian Elementary), fifth grader Mitchell Sargent (Cookson Elementary), and fifth grader Jackson Shafer (Miami Montessori School).
Meanwhile, a few miles north, the word battle that is the Piqua City-Wide Spelling Bee kicked off at Piqua Central Intermediate School with pronouncer Yvonne Wion offering up terms including “tent,” “maze,” “fish,” and “truck,” which the competing students rattled off with ease.
All 10 participants lasted through the first four rounds, until “purr” tripped up a young speller. And then there were nine … eight … seven … felled by such words as “tinker,” “ninja,” “frolic,” “cooperage,” “damask,” “siesta” and “stagnant.”
By round 16, just two contestants remained: Piqua Catholic School sixth grader Miley Heffelfinger and Laurie Vanmatre, a third-grade student at Springcreek Primary. Vanmatre was undaunted by facing off against the older student, as she cruised through “jacuzzi,” “barbarous,” “rivulets” and “gangrene” and on to victory.
Despite her win, Vanmatre modestly said she didn’t consider herself a good speller prior to the bee. “I spent about three weeks studying for it,” said the daughter of Jessica and Matthew Stewart.
Runner-up Heffelfinger, the daughter of Kelly and Chad Heffelfinger, also competed in last year’s bee. She said she spent “about a week” studying for this year’s event.
“Sometimes, I mix up ‘e’ and ‘i’ when I’m spelling,” she admitted, to which Vanmatre offered helpfully, “I think it’s ‘i before e, except after c.’”
Both girls are avid readers, with Heffelfinger currently immersed in Ally Condie’s “Matched” trilogy, and Vanmatre having recently finished J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series — her favorite is the fifth, book, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
Other competitors in the City-Wide Bee were Daria Lee (Piqua Catholic); Kennedy Shaffer and Jacob Emrick (PCIS); Kirsten Shaneyfelt and Lance Staley (Piqua Junior High); Mazzimo Martinez (Springcreek); and Raygan Swabb and Ashlyn Deal (Washington Primary).
The annual bee is sponsored by the Piqua Kiwanis Club. Judges for the event were PCIS principal Josh Kauffman, and PCIS teachers Kris Mitchem and Macarena Dunn, and Director of Curriculum Teresa Anderson.
The winners of the city-wide bees will advance to the next contest in Dayton. A date and location for the Dayton Spelling Bee is yet to be determined, and will be announced at a future date.