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Former champion returns to win county spelling bee after 26 rounds


Feb. 24, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2011 at 8:25 p.m.

Nazareth Academy eighth-grader Alex Sigtenhorst moves her fingers along an imaginary line as she methodically spells out her word during the 25th round of the Victoria County Spelling Bee. Sigtenhorst misspelled the word elocution in the marathon contest after 26 rounds.

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."



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