Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spelling bee runs out of words for finalists after 66 rounds

A battle between two elementary school students has turned into an old school, bare-knuckled slugfest — only with schoolbooks and bare-boned pronunciations.

The spelling bee competition at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library started Saturday morning and, after 66 rounds, hasn't been decided because officials ran out of words.

The standoff between Highland Park fifth grader Sophia Hoffman and Frontier School of Innovation seventh-grader Kush Sharma will resume March 8 at a library location to be determined. The winner gets a ticket to Washington, D.C., in May for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The pair matched each other word for word, round after round until —  after almost six hours of "Can you use it in a sentence?" —  officials didn’t want to pull more words from the dictionary in the middle of the bee. They reasoned that one speller might get a really tough word and the other a relatively easy one and it wouldn’t have been fair.

Plus, said bee coordinator Mary Olive Thompson, “about 2 o’clock, I think we were all really tired.”

Twenty-five students started Saturday’s championship event. After 19 rounds, only Hoffman and Sharma were still standing. Last year’s bee ended after 21 rounds.

The two spelling heavyweights better start training because the next round will be tougher. They won’t be working off the Scripps-approved list of 300 words. The words could come from anywhere in the 1,664-page dictionary.

Lightweights — like myself — will stick with Spell Check.

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