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Teen wins regional bee on 'distinguished' (w/video)

By Bianca Montes
March 18, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 17, 2014 at 10:18 p.m.

DeWitt County Co-Champion Muriel Margaret Cotman wins the regional spelling bee with the word "intellectualize" on Tuesday night.

Muriel Cotman had to spell "intellectualize." It wasn't like the hundreds of words before that knocked out her competition one at a time. This word was new.

After 41 rounds, the children participating in the regional spelling bee on Tuesday used all of the words given to them to study, a first for the 25th annual event, director Nan Gainer said.

The bee, which took place at Victoria College in the Johnson Symposium Center, combined 12 co-champions from Victoria and surrounding counties to compete for a spot in the national competition. It went on for a total of 44 rounds before a winner was declared.

More than 2,000 participants from 56 schools in Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Lavaca, Jackson and Victoria counties competed.

First- and second-place winners, thanks to sponsorships from Formosa Plastics, H-E-B, Invista, Pioneer Natural resources and Port Lavaca Auto Group, took home scholarships totaling $1,500.

Every speller took home a trophy, and third, fourth and fifth place were given a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

For 16 rounds, Brady Watson, 11, Muriel Cotman, 13, and Stella Motl, 9, pored through the available words and catapulted through foreign words such as prosciutto, schadenfreude and tchotchke.

For many of the words, they knew the origin, the definitions and, of course, the spelling.

After Stella missed her word, scrutineer, Muriel walked to the middle of the stage, pulled the microphone up and stood perfectly still for what seemed like forever.

The sparkle inside a bright silver star on her pink shirt caught the light and bounced across the room, her two white sneakers were firmly planted on the ground, and her long strawberry hair, which was held in a ponytail, didn't move.

"I-n-t-e-l-l-e-c-t-u-a-l-i-z-e."

The judges nodded in approval as the pronouncer announced, "that's right."

But she had one last word to spell: the champion word. After rounds of words that some would say are impossible to spell, distinguished was a cinch, and the crowd erupted in applause.

"I'm nervous," Muriel said as she bounced her head around in those final rounds. "I'd only been studying the word list. That was it."

Muriel said she spent about an hour every day -- and a little more during spring break -- studying her list of words.

Last year, she held an alternate spot in her county's spelling bee, and she was determined to make it farther this year, she said.

After going home and getting a good night sleep, she said she will begin preparing for the Scrips National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

"Study, relax and sleep," she said will be her regimen.

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