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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The final six spellers nervously wait for the next round to begin Saturday at the 64th annual Journal Gazette Regional Spelling Bee presented by STAR Financial Bank at IPFW's Rhinehart Music Center.

  • Una VanWynsberghe, 14, reacts after misspelling a word during Saturday’s competition. VanWynsberghe bounced back to win the competition for a third straight year.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Una VanWynsberghe spells a word as other competitors look on during the 64th Annual Journal Gazette Spelling Bee presented by STAR Financial Bank at IPFW Rhinehart Music Center on Saturday.  

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Una VanWynsberghe, who placed first, and runner-up Faith Meraz are all smiles after finishing the 64th Annual Journal Gazette Spelling Bee presented by STAR Financial Bank on Saturday.    

Sunday, March 04, 2018 1:00 am

Teen wins 3rd straight bee

Van Wert, Ohio, student goes 28 rounds to earn another trip to DC competition

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Top spellers

1st: Una VanWynsberghe, 14, eighth grade, Lincolnview Junior-Senior High School, Van Wert County, Ohio

2nd: Faith Meraz, 14, eighth grade, Wayne Trace Junior-Senior High School, Paulding County, Ohio

3rd (tie): Erica Cho, 13, eighth grade, Summit Middle School, Allen County

3rd (tie): Aditya Vaidya, 12, seventh grade, Lakeview Middle School, Kosciusko County

Spell it, “t-h-r-e-e-p-e-a-t.”

It's a noun meaning a third consecutive championship. It's also what Una VanWynsberghe accomplished Saturday.

An eighth-grader at Lincolnview Junior-Senior High School in Van Wert, Ohio, she finished first in the 64th annual Journal Gazette Regional Spelling Bee presented by STAR Financial Bank.

This year's competition, with 15 spellers from northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio, was a battle. It took more than two dozen rounds to crown a champion, with the final 10 rounds a faceoff between VanWynsberghe and runner-up Faith Meraz, 14.

Meraz, who is in the eighth grade at Wayne Trace Junior-Senior High School in Paulding, Ohio, misspelled “nebulous” in the 18th round. Una, 14, then correctly spelled “sonorous,” but in the 19th round misspelled championship word “grivoiserie.”

That gave Meraz a chance to return to the competition, held in the Rhinehart Recital Hall at IPFW's Rhinehart Music Center. It was a pattern that would continue.

“That went 28 rounds,” coordinator Heather Heal said after the competition. “That has to be a record.”

VanWynsberghe correctly spelled “satyagraha” – a policy of nonviolent political resistance – to win.

“I wasn't expecting it to be that difficult,” she said of the competition.

She will represent The Journal Gazette and STAR Financial Bank at the 91st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

With the win, VanWynsberghe will also receive a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, and a one-year membership to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Premium.

It was the third time Faith had competed in the regional spelling bee and the first time she finished second.

“It was a little crazy,” she said. “I never expected to make it that far. I'm pretty excited.”

Dewey VanWynsberghe, Una's father, said he was probably more nervous than his daughter during the competition. He credited Una's hard work and her teachers for her success.

“We don't put much pressure on her to perform, but, wow, do we feel it in the audience,” he said. “They've got more steel in their spine than a lot of adults.”

Brad Mendenhall is the principal an Lincolnview. He drove from Van Wert to watch Una compete.

“It's a fierce competition,” Mendenhall said. “She's top notch.”

mleblanc@jg.net