Last Updated: May 16th, 2014 - 12:32:22


Students mind the their Ps and Qs in division bees
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Feb 1, 2013, 12:55

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Prince George winner Jacob Mansur is congratulated on his win by sister Katherine.

Making sure the letter b was in the right words and in the right place was just one challenge faced by the students competing in division-wide spelling bees in the last two weeks. They also had to mind their ps and qs and all the other letters in the alphabet to move on to the next round of competition.

In Hopewell, Azeem Holland’s correct spelling on the word “wanderlust” spelled success and won him the division title and the opportunity to move on to the regional competition in Richmond.
contributed photo/B.Capaldo Winner Azeem Holland spells a difficult word while runner up, Brendan McComber, watches from his chair.

“It felt good,” said Holland. “I studied my words every night to prepare.”

Holland, an eighth grader at Carter G. Woodson Middle School, first realized he had a flair for spelling when he was young.

“Second grade, when I won the class spelling bee,” he said, recalling that moment.

After the first round, half of the spellers fell. After the second round, only Holland and Patrick Copeland fifth grader Brendan McComber, remained. They were locked in a dead heat until the eleventh round.

Janice Butterworth, supervisor of language arts and social studies for Hopewell schools, said that even the students that didn’t triumph at the bee should be proud.

“Just getting to that chair makes you a winner,” she said.

The eight other competitors, Demetris White, Hannah Dunlow, Playford Hart, Dylan Britton, Ayana Anderson, Jasma Bailey, Tiana Ferby and Daysia Lee, won a ticket to the bee by being the top spellers in their classes and their individual schools.

“It’s a real joy to see our kids work on spelling,” said Superintendent John Fahey. “It’s one of the most difficult tasks adults and children have, to spell the English language.”

Holland said he will be hard at work preparing for the next round of competition.

“Once I finish my homework, I just study until I’m tired,” he said.

In Prince George County, seven students were participating in a competition Brenda Gore, director of elementary education, said improves many of their skills.

“It helps them in their knowledge of how competitions work...it helps them in their study skills, it definitely helps them with vocabulary,” she said. “It hits on a lot of different skills.”

The competition started out with short words, including “kick,” “lake” and “frog,” before working up to longer words.

The first out came in round five, with the word “opera.” Winner Jacob Mansur and runner-up Alexis Pervall made it through 11 rounds, before Mansur triumphed by correctly spelling “jungle” and “deluxe.”

After the competition said he was glad that one word hadn’t come up at his turn.

“I just didn’t know how to spell bagel,” he explained.

Mansur said he is looking forward to the bee in Richmond. His brother, sister and father said they thought Jacob would be nervous on the big day, but he was less sure.

“I’m excited for him,” said his father, John Mansur, who, along with Jacob’s siblings Katherine and Chris, had helped their speller prepare.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Benson Yang won the Colonial Heights bee last week.

“We say the word and he spells it, usually on the way to school,” Katherine Mansur said.

Gore said the Richmond Times Dispatch, which sponsor the bee, provides the school with a list of words that they pass on to the students.

Karen Dubiel, instructional specialist and reading coach in Colonial Heights, said the bee there went on for 14 rounds before Benson Yang, a fourth grader at Lakeview Elementary, won with the correct spelling of “bungalow.”

Although Benson has won the Lakeview spelling bee title for the last three years, this was his first division victory, Dubiel said.

Helena Moffet, a seventh grader at the city’s middle school, scored the runner-up title.

Juliana Restom and Preston Trull also competed.

All of the local victors will compete in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 9th at 1 p.m. at the Library of Virginia.  
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Delaney Campbell, a fourth grader from South Elementary, concentrates on a word.

NOTE: Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer, also contributed to this story.

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