After 13 rounds and three consecutive hours of spelling bee quizzes, Ashley Royer was the first place winner in the Second Annual Higgins Middle School Spelling Bee and Silent Auction.
This was Royer's first appearance in the championship bee, which was hosted by the Northshore Mall, but she did compete in the bee for the sixth grade Sharks cluster last year. She's now a seventh-grader in the Bears cluster at the Higgins School.
She competed against 29 champions last Thursday and plans to spell her way back to the championship next year as well. Her winning word was 'automatonous.'
"I'm really excited I won," Royer said. "I wrote close to 1,000 words on flash cards and practiced them during school. They gave us a list of words they could ask, until the final round, where they asked different ones."
Her mother said her studying since late January paid off.
Since November, students practiced individually, and as a team, at weekly library meetings to prepare.
In the 13th round, Higgins Principal and Bee Master Todd Bucey asked words even adults aren't familar with, as the spelling bee (slated to run until 8 p.m.) lasted until the mall closed at 9 p.m.
In fact, competition was fierce with four perfect rounds. Two hours in, there were still eight contestants remaining. Tie-breaker words, including epistrophe, opsimath, autochthonous and linguipotence were used to narrow the field.
Royer showed Peabody Patch that she was awarded with a watch from Revolt Manufacturing Co., a $50 gift card from Simon Malls, and a $2,000 scholarship towards Sylvan Learning Center.
Second place winner Claudia Lanes and third place winner Spencer May won a $50 Simon gift card and a watch from Precision Time.
No one walked away empty-handed. All contestants went home with a goody bag fill of retailers' gifts.
May won last year's sixth grade bee as a member of the Dolphins cluster. Representing the Grade 7 Broncos cluster this year, May said, "It improves my skills in both grammar and English."
On the other hand, it was Lanes' first time qualifying for the championship level.
Runner-up Samuel Sullivan is a graduate of the Burke School.
"It is a learning experience as well as an opportunity to do one of the things I do best," said Sullivan.
Royer explained that participants were narrowed to the top five per homeroom, the top 10 per cluster, and then the top two per cluster participated in Thursday's spelling bee.
"I wasn't really sure if I'd win," Royer said. "Everyone said I was really good, but I was extremely nervous the whole time. I tried to forget it."
"I'll read the words in a random order," Bucey said, starting off the contest with a reminder of the rules. "In most bees, the bell signifies a misspell, but here, I'll ring it for the correct spelling. I know it's nerve-wracking and difficult to get to this point, so you can start spelling the word over once before you confirm the word."
He encouraged students to spell every letter as slowly as possible so judges could hear and to ensure accuracy on their part.
Treadwells' owner Tom Gould, Jeri Terenxoni and Phil Richards, representing the Peabody Education Foundation, acted as judges.
"Thank you for competing. Nice job to those leaving the stage," Gould said mid-way through the night.
In addiont to the championship bee, the PEF held a silent auction and student art exhibit to benefit its Partners in Education Program.