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The Journal Gazette

  • Madeline Phuong, Woodside Middle School eighth-grader, takes her turn during Thursday night's 65th annual Allen County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee at Rhinehart Music Center. She went on to win. (Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette)

Friday, February 08, 2019 1:00 am

Spellers in showdown

County bee champ not decided until two go 20 rounds

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette


1st – Madeline Phuong, eighth grade, Woodside Middle School

2nd – Jordan DeJesus, seventh grade, Jefferson Middle School

3rd – Zaraab Habib, fifth grade, Oak View Elementary School

4th – Elena Matyas, seventh grade, Summit Middle School

5th – Kaitlyn Knisley, fifth grade, Fort Wayne Area Homeschoolers, and Alex MacDonald, fifth grade, Deer Ridge Elementary School (eliminated same round)

Madeline Phuong and Jordan DeJesus came to the 65th annual Allen County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee prepared.

It showed. The middle school students took the competition to 20 rounds, and each had an opportunity to secure the win.

Madeline, an eighth-grader at Woodside Middle School, ultimately ended the nail-biter at Purdue University Fort Wayne with the word “chloasma.”

She will return to the Rhinehart Music Center stage for the March 9 regional spelling bee featuring winners from 14 other counties. That winner will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

The county bee was presented by STAR Financial Bank.

Madeline and Jordan bested 48 other students from fourth to eighth grades. Each had experience at this level of competition: Madeline was county champ in 2017, and Jordan – a seventh-grader at Jefferson Middle School – placed fifth in 2018.

They agreed this year's competition was particularly fierce.

Indeed. When only six participants were left, they went four consecutive rounds without a mistake. The words “halibut” and “asparagus” eventually made two fifth-graders – Kaitlyn Knisley of Fort Wayne Area Homeschoolers and Alex MacDonald of Deer Ridge Elementary School – stumble.

At times, participants paused their spelling for clarification.

“C-o-m-m-e-n – Wait, say it again, please?” Jorge Herrera, a Lutheran South Unity School seventh-grader, said to the pronouncer. The word repeated, he correctly spelled “commensurate.”

Asking the pronouncer questions – such as language of origin and for alternate pronunciations – was helpful, Madeline said, but she added she used some requests as a stall tactic.

Madeline, who didn't make it to the county bee last year, started preparing for the competition about seven months ago and used different studying strategies than before, she said.

“He especially was really prepared, too,” Madeline said of Jordan.

Jordan's preparations began last month, he said. He thanked his parents, brother and a friend for their support. He seemed satisfied with being runner-up.

“It feels pretty good,” Jordan said.