Connor Cunnane, 9, skipped to the microphone on stage in the Twin Ridge Elementary School auditorium Friday, as he prepared to spell his last word as a finalist in the school’s annual spelling bee.
The field had been narrowed from 29 students to two finalists, the other being fourth-grader Patrick Crockett, 9. Moments before Patrick had misspelled “elaborative.”
“Incoherently,” Connor said, as more than 100 of his classmates watched quietly. “I-n-c-o-h-e-r-e-n-t-l-y,” he said, spelling out the word.
Before one of the bee’s three judges could say, “That is correct,” the room erupted in shouts from students, teachers and parents.
Connor, a third-grader, spelled 100 words correctly in 10 rounds before being announced as the winner of the spelling contest.
“I feel so proud of myself,” Connor said.
Connor will represent Twin Ridge at the Frederick County Spelling Bee, where he will compete against 33 students from 31 private and public schools and two home schools.
Both Connor and Patrick were given trophies.
“I’m excited [to compete],” Connor said.
Participants began practicing for the competition in November, meeting weekly after school for study sessions.
Bill Cunnane, Connor’s father, said in addition to the school sessions, he and Connor practiced together every night.
“He’s been wanting to go [to the county competition],” Cunnane said of Connor. “He’s been talking about this [for a while].”
The process to pick the school’s spelling champion was months in the making, according to Ruth Allwardt, Twin Ridge literary specialist.
In the fall, students in the third through fifth grades were given a spelling test to determine who would participate in Friday’s competition. Those who scored 85 percent or higher on the test were invited to compete.
Allwardt said the spelling bee does more than help students with their literary skills.
“There’s a lot of growth that comes from persevering and doing something like this; it helps them to build confidence. I just wanted to highlight that spelling could be cool,” she said. “And [with Connor winning] I think it definitely shows that it’s not just the oldest students, they all have the same chance.”
Patrick, who will serve as the alternate for the school at the county spelling bee, said that even though he did not win the school competition, he is proud of how far he was able to get.
Together Patrick and Connor were able to reach words classified at a seventh-grade level of difficulty.
“So, that means [we] spelled better than fifth-graders and sixth-graders,” he said.
Patrick said that he plans to compete in the school competition again next year.
In addition, to having the opportunity to participate in the county competition, Connor could also potentially compete at a national level.
The county spelling bee, scheduled to be held Feb. 23 at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, allows students up to the eighth grade to compete.
This will be the first year that the Frederick County Spelling Bee has been approved as a qualifier for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.