Brandywine fourth-grader Jacob Miller, middle, crams in some more practice before Monday’s Cloverleaf Spelling Competition in Benton Harbor. Brandywine students, from left, Natasha Mwale, Elizabeth Hartz and Madeline Fietzek are also headed to the bee. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Buzz builds for spelling bee

Published 3:27pm Friday, February 3, 2012

Jacob Miller isn’t worried about the spelling part of Monday’s Cloverleaf Spelling Competition in Benton Harbor. It’s being in front of the crowd that has the Brandywine fourth-grader’s stomach in knots.

“I don’t know how to deal with the stage fright,” Miller said Friday morning in the school library.

Madeline Fietzek objected.

“It didn’t seem to bother you before. You beat us,” said Fietzek, a Brandywine sixth-grader.

Miller was the top speller in the Brandywine district’s spelling bee, which took place before Thanksgiving of last year. He correctly spelled “parasite” and “duress” to move on to the next round of competition — Monday’s Cloverleaf spelling bee at Lake Michigan College. The top three finalists all advanced, including Fietzek and fellow sixth grader Elizabeth Hartz. Natasha Mwale is Brandywine’s alternate.

The foursome has been practicing for an hour four days a week after school with spelling coach Ruth Mitchell. The students were given a list of several hundred words that all could be used during the competition.

The words are broken down by country of origin.

“The kids said the Dutch and German words are the most difficult,” Mitchell said. “Some don’t spell the way they sound.”

All four are excited about the competition. Hartz said she is most looking forward to the chance to win a trip to Washington D.C. Miller wants the money.

First prize includes more than $2,000 in cash and prizes and entry into the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., which airs on ESPN.

Monday’s competition is open to the top spellers in public and parochial schools in the counties of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren.

Buchanan Middle School students participating in Monday’s bee are: sixth-graders Robbie Fay and Lexi Carrigan and seventh-grader Michelle Dykstra. Buchanan alternates are sixth-grader Emily Goodrich and seventh-grader Hanna Fuller. They are coached by Monica Clupper and Carissa Calcut.

Niles’ Ring Lardner Middle School students participating in Monday’s bee are: eighth-graders Morgan Altergott and Chelsea Best and seventh-grader Wahsnoday Pamp. They are coached by Rikki Jones.

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