It was the championship word, the showdown between sixth-grader John Neumann and eighth-grader Emma Parrish.
It was Emma’s turn at the 2013 Collier County Spelling Bee. Get it right, and she’d be D.C.-bound for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Get it wrong, and she and John would have to continue to duke it out.
“Could you please be a little louder and a little slower?” a judge asked.
“OK,” Emma said.
And with that, Emma, a North Naples Middle School student, became Collier County’s top speller.
Forty-six spellers from 18 local middle schools participated in the showdown. They wore their names and numbers on yellow paper signs hung around their necks with string.
They had all won individual spelling bees at their respective schools. They were, as master of ceremonies Joe Landon put it, “the best of the best.”
It hadn’t been easy for Emma: She’d been given words like “trajectory” and “gourami” and “chimichanga.”
She’d missed a beat on “soliloquy,” forgetting the “O,” but found her way again with “femininity” and “terrapin.”
“I didn’t know the French ones that well, but the other ones I studied for,” Emma said.
As the final two contestants, she and John each spelled a handful of words wrong. The two took turns at least six times before he got tripped up on “backstein.”
Still, John’s supporters were encouraged. As a sixth-grader at Community School, he’ll have two more years to compete.
“He’s a great speller,” said his mother, Ann Neumann. “It comes naturally.”
Both John and Emma are big-time readers.
“She reads like crazy,” said Emma’s father, Jon.
Jeff Bruce, managing editor of the Daily News, and Brent Batten, columnist for the Daily News, judged the two-hour bee. Pam Grabcynzki served as rules judge and Larry Hurst served as recording judge, while Belynda Williams served as the timer.
Emma will advance to the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on May 28 and 30. Her older sister, Katie, who lives in D.C., is excited for the visit.
“Now you get the trip for free,” she told Emma after the competition.