A pair of dueling wordsmiths put forth a spelling battle for the ages Wednesday afternoon.
For the better part of 30 minutes, two-time defending Allen County Spelling Bee champion Clara Wicoff and her main challenger, Iola Middle School eighth-grader Mickey Ingle, went toe-to-toe and word-for-word in the championship round.
Wicoff, who made it to the National Spelling Bee last year, zipped her way through such words as “ineffable” and “ven-geance,” while Ingle was slowed only a little with such words as “gradient” and “dracula” (yes, it’s apparently not just the name of a vampire).
The tension built with each passing word, to the point that Wicoff asked for a short break after correctly spelling her 14th word, “access.”
The pair spelled their way through 12 words each in the final round — 17 in all — before Ingle was felled by the word “aggrandizement,” spelling it “agrandisement.”
Wicoff, with her typical meticulous approach — she asked for the definition, origin and alternate pronunciations of every word she received, as well as how it could be used in a sentence — took the spelling crown by spelling “labyrinth” and then “cajolery.”
It was, as Iola City Commissioner Bill Shirley noted afterward, perhaps more exciting than Saturday’s Kansas-Kansas State basketball game.
With that, the IMS sixth-grader, daughter of Iolans Joel and Lisa Wicoff, will advance for the third straight year to the Sunflower State Spelling Bee March 13 in Great Bend, sponsored by the Great Bend Tribune.
Wicoff told the Register after the event that she was able to handle most of the words with little difficulty.
Two, in particular, gave her pause: “baton” and “sonata,” primarily because of their varying pronunciations.
The winner in the Sunflower bee will advance to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.
Wicoff, Ingle and two other middle school students, Kaleb Mock of Iola and Zack Osborn of Humboldt, were the only spellers of the original 24 entrants to advance past the third round. Mock was eliminated by misspelling “rutabaga;” Osborn by “supplement.” Both were eliminated in the fourth round.
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