Former champion returns to win county spelling bee after 26 rounds

Scenes from the 2011 Victoria County Spelling Bee
  • Regional Spelling Bee Prizes First place:

    All expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for bee week from Victoria Advocate

    $100 savings bond - The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, donated by Jay Sugarman in honor of his father

    One-year subscription to ...

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  • Regional Spelling Bee Prizes First place:

    All expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for bee week from Victoria Advocate

    $100 savings bond - The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, donated by Jay Sugarman in honor of his father

    One-year subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, donated by Encyclopaedia Britannica

    Second place:

    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, donated by Merriam-Webster

    One-year subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online

    Third place:

    One-year subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online

    Fourth place:

    $20 Amazon.com gift certificate donated by the Scripps National Spelling Bee

    Fifth place:

    $20 Amazon.com gift certificate donated by the Scripps National Spelling Bee

    VICTORIA COUNTY SPELLING BEE WINNERS Champion

    Andrew Bernhard

    Seventh-grade

    Our Lady of Victory School

    Parents: Randall and Melissa Bernhard

    Co-champion

    Alex Sigtenhorst

    Eighth-grade

    Nazareth Academy

    Parents: Sharon and Dirk Sigtenhorst

    Alternate

    Therese Eamiguel

    Fourth-grade

    DeLeon Elementary School

    Parents: Felix and Evelyn Eamiguel

    WINNING WORDPanophobia: Noun. A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear.

Seventh-grader Andrew Bernhard and eighth-grader Alex Sigtenhorst went head-to-head for 13 rounds without a misspelled word at the Victoria County Spelling Bee on Thursday.

The two went 26 rounds, the longest bee at the county level, and were the top of 27 local students to spell correctly.

"I was just nervous because it was getting pretty long," Andrew said. The Our Lady of Victory student returned as champion after winning last year's county bee.

Within the first three rounds, 18 students were knocked out of the competition with words like mattock, gestapo and meistersinger.

By round 12, only three students remained: Therese Eamiguel, a fourth-grader from DeLeon Elementary; Alex, representing Nazareth Academy; and Andrew.

"My thing was, 'oh crap, this is going to take this long,'" Alex said in an interview afterward.

Alex buried her head in her hands, fidgeted and sat on her ankles, waiting her turn to spell.

"I was actually having miniature panic attacks so I was actually sitting down, and I put my head between my legs so I could breathe," she said. "The air's a lot cooler down there."



Alex finished the round spelling oregano and continued against Andrew, gripping the microphone and spelling out words in the air with her finger until round 26.

She was eliminated with the word elocution.

"Ah, darn it," she said, as she turned away from the stand.

Alex took the stage with the championship word.

"If you spell this correctly then you will be the winner of this bee," said Pat Vandervoort, VC vice president of instruction who pronounced the words.

Andrew twitched his fingers at his side as he spelled the word he'd never heard before.

"Panophobia," he said. "P-a-n-o-p-h--o-b-i-a."

He was correct.

"I was just nervous because I didn't know if it had one 'n' or two, or if it was an 'a' or an 'o', or not," he said, noting his strategy was to stay calm.

Andrew will advance to the regional bee as the champion and Alex as the co-champion at 6 p.m., March 22 at Victoria East High School. Therese, who made it through 12 rounds, will be the alternate for the event.

Alex described her final moments as impatient.

"I was thinking about messing up on purpose because I knew I was going on anyway," she said, adding she didn't expect the competition to be so stiff. "I'm really, really happy that I'm going on to the next round."