GRAFTON — Too bad Kaitlin Hall’s winning word wasn’t “deja vu.”
Because that’s what the Avon Middle School seventh-grader must have felt Friday night when she was declared the winner of the Regional Finals Spelling Bee, earning her a trip to the nation’s capital to compete in the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Sponsored by The Chronicle-Telegram, the bee, at Midview West Elementary School in Grafton, brought together the finalists from the East and West preliminary spelling bees over the past two weeks.
Kaitlin advanced to Friday night’s Regional Finals by virtue of her victory in the March 9 East Preliminary at Avon Heritage North Elementary School.
“I was pretty sure of all the words,” Kaitlin said after her big win Friday night.
Her confidence no doubt came from almost daily study that began in December, according to her dad, Matt Hall.
“It comes naturally, but I worked really hard each day,” Kaitlin said.
Kaitlin’s mom, Kathy, thought her daughter might win, but knew the odds were against her.
“There were a lot of talented spellers,” Kathy Hall said.
Kaitlin’s adviser-coach was Heather Pelphrey, her English teacher.
“Who squeals when they get an unabridged dictionary,” Pelphrey said with a laugh as she recalled Kaitlin’s immediate reaction when given the dictionary as a prize.
Pelphrey described Kaitlin as “an avid reader” with a strong aptitude for vocabulary. She recently qualified for the “Power of the Pen” creative writing competition’s state finals, which will be in May at the College of Wooster.
Despite her love of books, words and writing, Kaitlin remains a well-rounded girl, according to Pelphrey.
“She is very social, outgoing, has lots of personality and she’s funny,” Pelphrey said, smiling broadly as she proudly looked on at her student.
Good spelling is apparently something of a family affair for the Halls.
Kaitlin’s brother, Ryan, a high school freshman, came in eighth in last year’s Regional Finals.
Friday’s contest progressed through approximately a dozen rounds before the 32 spellers from schools in Lorain and Erie counties were winnowed to Kaitlin and fellow seventh-grader Adil Hasan, of Avon Lake’s Learwood Middle School.
Rules for the final two spellers require the winning student to correctly spell a word missed by the other contestant, as well as a subsequent word.
Kaitlin and Adil waged a spirited verbal joust for several rounds, as each made quick work of words ranging from “staccato” and “pyre” to “phenomenon” and “didactic.”
Then Adil incorrectly spelled the word “lederhosen” when it was given to him by pronouncer Bruce Van Dyke, longtime WEOL-AM 930 on-air personality and the station’s operations director.
“Lederhosen” is a German word for a type of leather shorts often worn with suspenders by men and boys in Bavaria.
Kaitlin correctly spelled the word, then also correctly spelled “metaphor” to win the bee.
A “metaphor” is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is used as a symbol to represent something else.
“I was nervous,” Adil said. “I wanted to get a drink of water but they said I couldn’t leave.”
Adil was co-coached by Emily Lee, his seventh-grade English teacher, and fellow teacher Beth McBride.
“(The children) spell better than we do,” Lee said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.