Mikaila McGinnis (left), an eighth-grade student at Park Middle School, gets ready to spell a word as Elizabeth Koh, an eighth-grade student from St. Francis de Sales, looks on during the Raleigh County Middle School Spelling Bee Wednesday at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. Beckley Register-Herald photo.
BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Attendees experienced déjà vu at the Raleigh County Middle School Spelling Bee Wednesday as good friends Elizabeth Koh and Mikaila McGinnis took the winner and runner-up titles, respectively, for the second year in a row.
They lasted 83 rounds, 49 between just the two of them.
Ultimately, McGinnis misspoke, knowing immediately she had said "e" too early in the spelling of "camouflage."
Koh quickly spelled the missed word correctly and then followed it by spelling "genre" to take the county title.
Koh is an eighth-grader from St. Francis de Sales School and last year won the regional bee and competed at the national level.
After the county bee, which lasted more than an hour and a half, Koh said the most important thing for contestants to remember is to "keep up your stamina and not to lose your cool or panic."
Helen Walker, retired Raleigh County speech therapist and bee pronouncer, reminded those in attendance that last year the judges did not notice that McGinnis, now an eighth-grader at Park Middle School, had spelled a word wrong until she told them.
"That showed great character and courage," Walker said.
The two will advance to the Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee in Charleston on March 17, where first- and second-place winners move on to the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 27-June 1.
Koh said that although the county bee was held earlier than usual, it did not throw her game.
"I have been studying this list of words since I was in fourth grade, and maybe even earlier than that because my brother competed in the regional and national bees," she said.
Her brother, Matthew Koh, placed 25th in the nation in 2008.
Although eighth-graders will continue on, the young winners of the elementary bee Tuesday, who also competed in the middle bee, proved to be tough competitors.
Katie Mills, a fourth-grader at Victory Baptist Academy and winner of the elementary bee, was among the top five competitors, and Ashlynn Coffman, a fifth-grader at Bradley Elementary, placed third Wednesday. So while this will be the last chance for Koh and McGinnis at the regional, Raleigh County has strong young spellers to carry on the tradition.
Koh received a $100 savings bond and McGinnis, a $50 savings bond.
Judges were Eddiena Schoolfield, retired assistant director of federal programs; Patricia Waddell, former member of the board of education; and Flicka Graves, retired attendance officer.
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