A Gem Of A Speller

If you weren’t looking at these words, could you spell mugwump? Verdure? How about agitprop?

These were some of the words that tripped up the contestants in the annual Warren County Spelling Bee at the Warren Area Elementary Center on Wednesday.

Two of the 16 contestants weren’t able to attend, so two alternates stepped in to take their places. WAEC Principal Ann Ryan said that it was the first time in memory that had happened.

After sixth-grader Aubrey Pearson, a homeschooler, stumbled on ‘agitprop,’ Paige Rafalski and Seth Conarro, both fifth-grade students at WAEC, battled for the top honors until Rafalski misspelled ‘presumptuous’ and Conarro took top honors with ‘sapphire.’

It took a total of 15 rounds to finish the contest.

Conarro said this was his first spelling bee, and that he was nervous.

Ryan said the students were provided with a list of words in January to study for the individual schools’ spelling bees, and the winners were given another list for the county final rounds. While the lists contained the words used in competition, they also had many more.

As the winner, Conarro received a place in the Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee, which will be held March 22, $200, a subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica online for kids, and a plaque that will bear his name.

Rafalski also received a subscription to Britannica and a plaque, and Pearson won a $25 gift card to Wal-Mart and a plaque.

Each student received a pin, a certificate of participation and a gift bag with donations from Thorne’s Bi-Lo, McDonald’s, Arby’s and Little Caesar.

Mark Silvis, program director for KIBCO Radio, moderated the spelling bee, and the judges were Cynthia Blodget, Teresa Boger and Rosemarie Green.

The spelling bee was sponsored by the Times Observer.