Downeast speller repeats last year’s win

Published 7:21 pm Monday, March 12, 2018


It’s the most abundant element, next to oxygen, in the Earth’s crust.

It’s also the word that won Cape Hatteras Secondary School eighth-grader Elizabeth Muller a repeat trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

Muller was one of 31 participants in the 26th-annual Downeast Regional Spelling Bee held Saturday at Arts of the Pamlico’s Turnage Theatre in downtown Washington. The bee is hosted by the Washington Daily News, and the winners’ trip, along with a chaperone, is sponsored by Nutrien, formerly PotashCorp-Aurora.

The spelling bee lasted 22 rounds, with Muller beating out long-time Downeast rival Helayna Clark, from The Oakwood School, for first place. Third place went to Sophia Chabo, a seventh-grader from Winterville Charter Academy. Muller won last year’s regional bee and made an impressive showing in D.C. last May: out of field of 291 spellers, she tied for 41st place.

Beaufort County was represented in this year’s regional bee by Chocowinity Primary School fourth-grader Luke Bullock; Jaiden McCoy, a fifth-grader from John Small Elementary School; sixth-grader Claire Stevens from P.S. Jones Middle School; seventh-grade S.W. Snowden School student Isaiah Waldron; and Alyssa Valdez, an eighth-grader from Unity Christian Academy. The remaining students traveled from across eastern North Carolina to participate.

The first round started with “bagel” and ended with “biblical,” with the many words in between straight from the Scripps’ “2018 Spell It?” study guide. Once Round 10 was completed, judges then opted for the list of words selected from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary. Since none of the remaining challengers had studied this list, that’s when the superior spellers made themselves known by correctly spelling words such as preeminent, substratum, infraorder and leprotic.

Isaiah Waldron was the last of the Beaufort County spellers on stage — he made it to the end of Round 4, before “concerto” knocked him out of the running.

This year’s judges included Cornell McGill, retired from Department of Public Safety; retired English teacher Chris Donahue and Vail Stewart Rumley, news editor for the Washington Daily News. Local attorney John Tate served as the bee’s pronouncer.