October 24, 2014

Elyria
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Spellbound success: Avon seventh-grader wins preliminary district spelling bee

GRAFTON — What started with “schedule” and “veterans” Friday night at Midview North Elementary School quickly turned tricky as students wrestled with “gastroenterology” and “extemporaneous.”

But Erin McNamee, 12, a seventh-grader at Avon Middle School, had the skill to master “peristaltic” and defeat 43 challengers to win the 2008 Preliminary South District Spelling Bee.

“I didn’t even know that word. I was sure I was going to get it wrong but I figured I’d just spell it how it sounds,” she said, hefting her trophy.

For days, Erin’s father, Michael McNamee, had been drilling her on vocabulary words and making her write out ones that eluded her, she said. Now Erin’s on her way to the regional finals — sponsored by the Chronicle-Telegram — on March 14 at Northwood Junior High in Elyria, along with 15 other top qualifiers from Friday’s preliminaries.

They’ll be joined by 16 winners from the North District preliminaries, which will be 7 p.m. Friday at Amherst Junior High School. Only one will be crowned the 2008 Chronicle-Telegram 25th Annual Spelling Bee Champion.

In second place Friday was Jessica Stanard, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Jude School in Elyria, who said she was amazed to place in the top 16.

Jessica said she wasn’t at all confident with longer, complicated words, and had focused on shorter, obscure ones. Eventually, it was “cyanide” that did her in.

Behind the scenes, Chris and Heather Pelphrey celebrated, too.

The husband-and-wife team coached the top two finishers to victory as spelling bee advisers — Chris as Jessica’s teacher at St. Jude, and Heather as Erin’s teacher at Avon.

“It feels really good to know we both had this kind of success tonight,” Chris Pelphrey said.

The March 14 finals aren’t the end of the line. The winner of that spelldown will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 29 and 30 in Washington, D.C.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.