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September 21, 2014

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Top spellers face off

Spelling Bee semifinals

Candice Childress, an eighth grader at Garrett Middle School, listens to the definition of the word she is to spell during the semifinals of the CCSD spelling bee Wednesday at Channel 10's studios. Launch slideshow »
Name School Grade
Rachel Baxter Faiss 6
Riley Ker Garrett 6
Dakota Jones Hyde Park 6
Sarah Placentia Johnston 6
Monica Pechous Miller 6
Jordan Chan O'Callaghan 6
Collin Patterson Schofield 6
Alyssa Roberts Escobedo 7
Theodore Kern Feritta 7
Marc Wolpert Garrett 7
Mollie Miller Lawrence 7
Julien Tosques Miller 7
Lyreza Saul Swainston 7
Brett Murray Webb 7
Christopher Cox Becker 8
David Garcia Fertitta 8
Candice Childress Garrett 8
Zack McDulin Lawrence 8
Justin Joseph Martin 8
Brianna Tramont Miller 8
Charlie Bactad Swainston 8

When students from around the Las Vegas Valley found out they made it to the spelling bee semifinals, they probably didn't count on one nerve-wracking aspect: Spelling at the semifinals meant they would be broadcast into homes of potentially thousands of people.

That meant cameras pointing at their faces during Wednesday's semifinal competition while they tried to remember how to spell words such as "eloquence."

"I was really nervous," Marc Wolpert, 12, of Garrett Middle School in Boulder City said after claiming one of the seven spots for seventh grade finals next month.

The competition attracted 14 students from each grade, who took their places on rows of chairs along the wall before being asked to step to the microphone and show off their skills.

Each grade had to spell from the same list, which included words such as alimentation, reciprocity and quadricentennial.

To get to the semifinals, students had to win in their grade level at their middle school and then win at the regional competition. Each region sent three students, but one student from each grade level didn't show, Josh Wikler, coordinator of spelling bees for the Clark County School District, said.

Those who came had different ways of studying. Some were given packets by their school to help, others counted on knowledge from books they've read or just seeing the word in some context.

Wolpert was one of those students who didn't study much, but instead counted on being able to visualize how he's seen the word spelled before.

"I kind of just guess," he said.

Wikler was quick to point out that regardless of whether the students made it to the finals, they were still the top 15 spellers in their grade in the district.

"No matter what happens, that's just amazing," he told parents before the sixth grade bee began.

Elton Garrett Middle School in Boulder City and Bob Miller Middle School in Henderson are the only two schools to send a student to the finals in every grade. Fertitta, Lawrence and Swainston middle schools are each sending two students.

At the semifinals, the students are given the same group of words for each grade, but that doesn't occur at the finals. Instead, older students will get more difficult words than the younger students.

At the finals, the field will be narrowed to two students from each grade to go to the state competition in March. Finals will be held at noon Feb. 18 at KLVX Channel 10 studios, 4210 Channel 10 Drive.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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