McGrath Crowns Winner at Spelling Bee

Jackson Denholm concentrates hard to spell a word at the annual spelling bee at McGrath Elementary School last Thursday. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Jackson Denholm concentrates hard to spell a word at the annual spelling bee at McGrath Elementary School last Thursday. He’s one of five who made it to the eighth round. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Ponder almost stumbles on ‘berserk,’ wins it with ‘whey’

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

Becoming McGrath Elementary School’s spelling bee champion two years in a row takes more than just being a good speller. It also requires courage. As you stand at the microphone with most of the school, a bunch of parents and the judges staring at you, you can’t be afraid to ask questions.

The winner and runner-up of the McGrath spelling bee, Charlize Ponder and Elena Cuille.
The spelling bee winner Charlize Ponder (left) and runner-up Elena Cuille. Ponder’s fifth-grade teacher is Stephanie Hogan. Cuille’s fourth-grade teacher is Lisa Hastings.

McGrath fifth-grader Charlize Ponder was trying to win her second consecutive spelling bee title last Friday. She had breezed through the first eight rounds by nailing the words inhale, island, chickens, bounce, limelight, nourish, appreciate and phonics. As she stepped to the mic for the ninth time, she and fourth-grader Elena Cuille were the only survivors from the original field of 18 spellers in grades three, four and five. Cuille had opened the round by spelling “ipso facto” correctly.

Henry McDaniels spells a word. Some of the boys wore neckties to the spelling bee.
Henry McDaniels dresses for success. He’s one of eight who made it to the seventh round.

Moderator Kathy Molina gave Ponder the word “berserk,” pronouncing it with a “z” starting the second syllable: ber-zerk. The youngster immediately suspected it was spelled with an “s” but the “z” sound made her unsure. She quickly asked if there were any other ways to pronounce it. Molina said it can also be pronounced ber-serk, with an “s” sound.

That was reassuring but Ponder still wasn’t completely sure when she said, “Okay . . . berserk — b-e-r-s-e-r-k.” Molina replied, “That is correct.”

In round 10, Cuille finally misspelled a word and Ponder got “flourish” right. But no trophy yet. Spelling bee rules state that if you’re the last one left in a round, you must answer one final “championship word.”

“Whey,” Molina said, and then defined it as “the serum or watery part of milk that is separated from the curd, especially in the process of making cheese.”

Easy peasy for Ponder: “Whey — w-h-e-y.”

Charlize and Mark Twain fourth-grader Varun Pandey are among several hundred school champions in the region who will advance to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Spelling Bee at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. They’ll take a written spelling test there on March 7 and if they score high enough will return for an oral test on March 14. She didn’t survive the written test last year.

The winner at McKendree goes to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in late May. The last Brentwood resident to reach the national bee was fifth-grader Rounak Bera in 2011.

Reading specialist Kathy Molina gives the spellers instructions before the bee. She supervised the event.
Reading specialist Kathy Molina gives the spellers instructions before the bee. She supervised the event.

Wants to be a teacher

After the spelling bee, Ponder stood in the gym for a few minutes enjoying the moment with her mom Toni, dad Mark and grandmother Donna before returning to Stephanie Hogan’s class.

“I would have gotten ‘berserk’ wrong,” Donna said with a chuckle.

Charlize said she wants to be a schoolteacher some day, her favorite subject is spelling and one of her biggest inspirations has been her third-grade teacher, Dana Palubiak.

“Charlize likes to teach imaginary students,” said Toni.

Said Mark, “She’s a big reader, loves to read.”

Charlize confirmed that she likes fiction. Her favorite lately has been “The Maze Runner” young adult science fiction book series by James Dashner.

By Round 7, the field of 18 had been cut to eight: J.D. Allen, Elena Cuille, Jackson Denholm, Ian McCallister, Henry McDaniels, Ponder, Taliyah Roash and Ian Thornton. Only Cuille, Denholm, McCallister, Ponder and Roash made it to Round 8, which eliminated all but Cuille and Ponder.
.

McGrath principal Cindy Neu welcomes students and parents to the spelling bee in the gym. Kathy Molina is on the right.
McGrath principal Cindy Neu welcomes students and parents to the spelling bee last Friday. The contestants are to the left, judges are to the right, student spectators sit in the middle of the gym and parents are in the back.
Judges Katie Eckenrodt (left) and Gabby Asher, both teaching assistants, listen to Elena Cuille.
Judges Gabby Asher (left) and Katie Eckenrodt, both teaching assistants, listen to Elena Cuille.

Charlize Ponder, winner

DSC_6633 Charlize Ponder

Elena Cuille, runner-up

DSC_6621 Elena Cuille

Ethan Ritter

DSC_6626 Ethan Ritter

Keira Howard

DSC_6651 Keira Howard

Nick Moran

DSC_6627 Nick Moran

Logan Getzschman

DSC_6665 Logan Getzschman

Will Schuering

DSC_6628 Will Shuering

Lexi Thornton

DSC_6670 Lexi Thornton

Henry Ritter

DSC_6629 Henry Ritter

Nataysha Shinell

DSC_6672 Nataysha Shinell

Ian Thornton, top 8 finalist

DSC_6650 Ian Thornton

Jonas Wall

DSC_6654 Jonas Wall

Taliyah Roash, top 5 finalist

DSC_6686 Taliyah Roash

DSC_6704 Taliyah Roash

Ian McCallister, top 5 finalist

DSC_Ian McCallister1

DSC_Ian McCallister2

Kailyn Womer

DSC_Kailyn Womer1

DSC_Kailyn Womer2

J.D. Allen, top 8 finalist

JD Allen

Henry McDaniels, top 8 finalist

DSC_6653 Henry McDaniels

Jackson Denholm, top 5 finalist

DSC_6674 Jackson Denholm

DSC_6675 Jackson Denholm

All the contestants

All the contestants show off their certificates after the spelling bee.
The contestants show off their certificates after the spelling bee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s