Victoria students battle 27 rounds to win spelling bee

March 1, 2012 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 29, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.

When the bell didn't ring, Hayden Zandonatti appeared surprised to learn that he'd spelled "seersucker" correctly.

When the bell didn't ring, Hayden Zandonatti appeared surprised to learn that he'd spelled "seersucker" correctly.   Todd Krainin for The Victoria Advocate

Two-and-a-half hours, 27 rounds of competition and one huge sigh of relief later, Andrew Bernhard was named the Victoria County Spelling Bee champion for the third year in a row.

This year's victory proved quite a battle between Andrew and his county co-champion, Therese Eamiguel, who was last year's alternate in the regional competition.

Andrew is an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Victory, and Therese is a fifth-grader at DeLeon Elementary School.

The two went head-to-head for 10 rounds Thursday before Andrew took the tile by spelling the championship word: miasma.

"I couldn't decide between "mi" and "my," Andrew said after the competition at Victoria College. "I didn't hear the bell, and I knew that was good for me."

Judges rang the dreaded bell each time one of the 27 contestants misspelled a word. By the end of the first round, they'd eliminated 12 contestants.

Four of them - Andrew, Therese, Mathieu Jarrett, a seventh-grader at Howell Middle School, and Ryan Ehsan, a sixth-grader at Stroman Middle School - competed eight rounds without fumbling.

Ryan will be the alternate representing Victoria County in the regional bee on March 20.

Andrew and Therese sat next to each other throughout the bee and encouraged each other under the bright stage lights. Whether it was a "good luck" or "good job," they each returned from the microphone to a smile from their competition.

Often, the satisfied grin came after a word they were sure they'd spell wrong, Andrew and Therese said.

Take for example, Andrew's escape from nervousness when he discovered he spelled "ibex" correctly.

"Oh, sweet!" he said into the mic.

Therese had the same experience with "nuance."

"I was like, seriously? I was just guessing on that one," she said, adding that the rosary in her pocket helped keep her calm throughout the competition.

Andrew and Therese will take on winners from surrounding counties at the regional competition at 6 p.m. March 20 in VC's Johnson Symposium.

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