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Spelling Bee wins come down to cliff-hanging words

March 5, 2017 GMT

Proud parents sat as their children took to the microphone to spell words some adults couldn’t even pronounce during The Philadelphia Tribune Regional Spelling Bee at the School of the Future, 4021 Parkside Ave., on Saturday.

Pronouncer Amy T. Holdsman, executive director of the Maguire Foundation, uttered the words and each of the young contestants stepped to the microphone to give its correct spelling. To help, participants could ask the original of the respective word, request that it be used in a sentence or inquire about its parts of speech.

Despite the fact all of the young students participating in the Spelling Bee performed admirably during the challenge, there were two winners.

Chloe Dimmerman of the Albert M. Greenfield School won the fifth-grade competition in spelling CRUSTACEAN correctly and Elizabeth Muganyizi of Cedarbrook Middle School won the regional competition.

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Muganyizi, 13, will go on to represent the area in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in June.

“It was so surprising,” she said while holding her victory trophy. “I studied every chance I got, I didn’t count the time I just studied as much as I could.”

Muganyizi said she prepared for the Bee by writing out the words and taking quizzes online to test herself.

This proved to be a wise strategy.

“This was my second competition but it’s my first trophy ever,” said Muganyizi, who won in the 25th round after correctly spelling LANDU.

The word describes a horse-drawn, enclosed carriage with a removable front cover and a back cover that can be raised and lowered like in a convertible car.

Although she emerged victorious, it was not an easy win for Muganyizi who had a head-to-head battle with runner-up Lukas Granade, a student at C.C.A. Baldi Middle School who proved to be a tenacious competitor to the end.

“Scared,” said Granade when asked how he felt as other contestants fell off one by one leaving only himself and Muganyizi onstage to fight word for word for the trophy and a chance to move on to the nationals.

“I studied every day,” he said.

This went on for a month until he had his chance to enter this year’s Bee contest, which was his second.

“It’s nerve wrecking, hard and difficult,” said Grenade with a laugh as he planned his return.

Beside Granade was his mother, Jacqueline Homa who expressed her pride at her son’s performance.

“It’s worse for the parents, it has to be,” she said. “I’m there every time he has to spell a word and praying ‘please let him remember it’ and then he does and then there’s a wave of relief and the whole process starts over.”

That tense silence filled the auditorium throughout the event as each time the pronouncer uttered a word. A bell was rung each time a word was misspelled and the audience waited in silent anticipation for each word spelled.

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Homa said that the relief that followed the end of the Spelling Bee was followed by anxious anticipation for the next.

“I just feel so good, I feel so proud of her,” said Janet Muganyizi, mother of the regional champion. “I was kind of a little nervous but I knew that she was going to win because she studied hard and she really wanted to go to Washington, [to compete in the Nationals].”

Muganyizi said her daughter studied for hours a day using every resource available in pursuit of her goal.

“I feel fantastic,” said Primus Muganyizi, father of the regional champion. “It’s really challenging but Elizabeth has been a very wonderful child, she’s been studying hard and we really didn’t have to do much to push her.”

The Spelling Bee is not only a fun, challenging activity but it has lots of other admirable qualities.

“It was a very challenging opportunity for young folks who prepared themselves well,” said Robert Bogle, CEO of The Philadelphia Tribune.

Bogle congratulated Muganyizi on her victory, calling her “a real champion” after enduring a tense head-to-head competition that had guests sitting on the edge of their seats.

“I think I was more tense than the students and the words they were asked to spell, I don’t think I could have spelled some of them,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Jacqueline B. Mosley, former mayor of Yeadon Borough, who served as a judge.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for young people because they are involved in an activity that increases their knowledge so much. I just think it’s a wonderful experience,” she said.

Other judges for the Spelling Bee included Larry Skinner and Claudette Wardlaw.