CINCINNATI – Some of the top spellers from across the Tri-State took center stage Saturday at the 9 On Your Side Regional Spelling Bee competitions.
And for the third time, Joseph Delamerced, an eighth-grader at Summit Country Day, took the top prize for the Southwest Ohio region. He also won the regional bee in 2011 and again last year.
On Saturday, Delamerced beat out runner-up Iman Elayyad of Hopewell Junior School and 66 other contestants by spelling “persienne” in the 10th round of the event at the School of Creative and Performing Arts in downtown Cincinnati.
The word, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “painted or printed cotton or silk originally made in Persia and later imitated in Europe.”
Olivia Kaiser, 13, of Hebron, Ky. bested 58 human dictionaries to win the Kentucky-Indiana 9 On Your Side Regional Spelling Bee. In the final round, the seventh-grader at Conner Middle School successfully spelled the word "solemnity," the state or quality of being serious and dignified.
“I kept saying, ‘I've got to leave, I can't do this,” she said. “I didn't think I was going to get very far because studying the words was really hard so I'm really happy that I won.
While her father admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the result, he never doubted his daughter’s ability.
“I'm shocked every time (she wins), but I don't know why because she always does well at everything,” Ryan Kaiser said.
Part of that surprise may have stemmed from the fact his daughter finished one spot ahead of Manu Nair of Gray Middle School. Nair, a Union, Ky. resident, finished in second place in 2014 after winning the region the previous two years.
“Spelling words is cool,” said Delamerced, whose brother Tino and sister Anna also won the WCPO Spelling Bee during their time at Summit Country Day. “It’s fun. It’s very nerve-wracking. I was confused on many of the words that the other kids spelled.”
Part of those nerves Delamerced, Kaiser and the rest of the spellers experienced were a byproduct of spelling in a 700-seat auditorium.
For the first time in several years the public was invited to watch the bees, which were emceed by WCPO's Tanya O'Rourke.
"In the past we did not have enough space to fit spellers, their families and also invite the public. But this year, we’ll be at the School for Creative and Performing Arts on Central Parkway downtown," event organizers said.
In addition to their regional trophies, the champions took home copies of the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award -- a 2014 United States mint proof set.
But the real prize is an expenses-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The week-long national event takes place from May 25 to May 31.
When asked what his goal for this spelling bee was, Delamerced said it was simply to make it to the national competition again. He finished 12th last year.
While the 125 spellers in Saturday's bee successfully studied and memorized a list of words for their school-level bees, the spelling contest in the nation's capital takes things to another level.
The National Spelling Bee requires an ability to apply language concepts to 472,000 words -- ranging from the first word in Webster’s Dictionary (“aardvark") to “zyzzogeton,” the last word.
In case you didn't know, “zyzzogeton” is pronounced "zi-zi-GEE-ton" and means a “genus of large South American leaf hoppers.”
Delamerced's mother credits the extensive language curriculum at her son's school for preparing him for success.
"He has had three years of French, a few years of Spanish and then Latin, so I think that's contributed a lot to their success," said Victoria Delamerced, who adding that this is the first time the entire family can make the trip to D.C.
In the meantime, Delamerced said he, Kaiser and each of the other regional winners plan to spend their next few weeks with their noses in the books and coming up with competitive strategies. Delamerced said he already has a plan in place.
“Just put your whole heart in it.”
9 On Your Side will air a one-hour special about the Regional Spelling Bees on Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m.