Keenan wins spelling bee

BRILLIANT – Nathan Keenan, an eighth-grader at Toronto Junior/Senior High School, correctly spelled ‘impunity’ to win the 30th annual Herald-Star Jefferson – Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee. This is the second year in a row that he will be advancing to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 25 – May 31.

In addition to a trophy, he will receive a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, courtesy of Merriam-Webster; a one-year online membership donated by Encyclopaedia Britannica; a $250 gift certificate from Huntington Bank; the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a 2014 United States Mint Proof Set donated by Jay Sugarman, CEO of iStar Financial; and an expenses-paid trip to Washington for the National Bee courtesy of the Herald-Star.

“It feels great, especially after almost blowing it on ‘pennant,'” said Keenan, son of James and Jeanine Keenan of Toronto. “I had lots of fun last year touring all the sites. Maybe this year I’ll go to the Holocaust Museum. That’s something I’d really like to do.”

Keenan has kept in touch with a few of the friends he made last time he competed in D.C., and he’s hoping to run into them again.

He said he prepared for Saturday’s spelling bee, which was held at Buckeye North Elementary School, by studying the list of words for 20 minutes to an hour or more every night.

Keenan was among 49 pupils in grades 5-8 who competed in the event after winning bees in their respective schools and districts. The competitors included pupils from the Toronto City, Steubenville City, Indian Creek, Buckeye Local, Edison Local and Harrison Hills City school districts; Jefferson County Christian School, Bishop John King Mussio elementary and junior high schools; and the Virtual Learning Academy.

Placing second was Jasmine Black, a seventh-grader at Edison Junior High School. In addition to a trophy, she will receive a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, courtesy of Merriam-Webster Inc.

Placing third through fifth and receiving trophies and thesauruses were: Nathan Cain, an Edison Junior High School seventh-grader, third place; Harmony Black, a Stanton Elementary School sixth-grader, fourth place; and Caden Arbaugh, a Harrison Central Junior/Senior High School eighth-grader, fifth place.

Jasmine Black and Harmony Black are sisters who prepared by studying together with their parents, Hoi Wah and Dale Black.

Rounding out the top 10 spellers were: Mariyka Sich, a Bishop John K. Mussio Junior High School eighth-grader, sixth place; Kristina McNamara, a Bishop John K. Mussio Junior High School eighth-grader, seventh place; Jacob Noble, a Harding Middle School seventh-grader, eighth place; Jamie Mason, a Toronto Junior/Senior High School eighth-grader, ninth place; and Jaden Grimm, a Toronto Junior/Senior High School eighth-grader, 10th place.

All of the participants received $25 gift certificates from Huntington Bank, and the Ohio Lottery Commission paid the entry fee for all.

The bee’s sponsors this year included the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, Eastern Gateway Community College, Huntington Bank, the Steubenville Rotary Club, the Ohio Lottery, Amtrak and Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel of Wheeling.

Ron Sismondo of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center served as chairman of the bee this year. Assisting him were Stephen Criniti and Jeremy Larance, both of West Liberty University, and Connie Salvayon of EGCC, who served as judges. David Schaefer of Franciscan University of Steubenville served as recorder, and the pronouncer was Mary Ann Zeroski, a retired Buckeye Local teacher, with Paula Diorio, a retired Catholic Central High School teacher, serving as assistant pronouncer.

Herald-Star Executive Editor Ross Gallabrese congratulated the winners and encouraged students to participate again next year. He praised the many teachers, parents, grandparents and others who supported the spellers.

Over 15 rounds that lasted more than two hours, competitors in Saturday’s event spelled a wide variety of words, including bandersnatch, nosh, sitzmark, haiku and rupee.