Steubenville girl will represent area in national bee

WINNING SPELLERS — Grace McKeegan, a home-schooled eighth-grader from Steubenville, emerged the winner of the 35th Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee Saturday at Buckeye North Elementary School. McKeegan also won last year’s bee and will again compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington in May. With McKeegan, at the far left in front; are fellow finalists Morgan Lesnansky of Edison Junior High School, who placed second; Abigail Gilman of Harding Middle School, third place; Emma Phillips of Edison Junior High School, fourth place; Maximilian Gan of the Ohio Virtual Learning Academy, fifth place; Jackie O’Karma of Bishop John King Mussio Elementary School, sixth place; and back: Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times; finalists Lindsey Zifzal of Indian Creek Middle School, seventh place; Darren Jiang of Karaffa Elementary School, eighth place; Cara Motto of Buckeye South Elementary School, ninth place; and Elizabeth Bolock of Buckeye West Elementary School; Gary Stubbs of Huntington Bank, also a sponsor; and Ron Sismondo of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, the bee’s coordinator. - Warren Scott

STEUBENVILLE — ‘Infraorder’ was one of two words Grace McKeegan, a home-schooled eighth-grader from Steubenville, spelled correctly to capture her second consecutive victory in the Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee.

The word refers to a subcategory in the world of taxonomy, but there was nothing sub-par about the performance of McKeegan or the 49 other area students who competed in the event Saturday at Buckeye North Elementary School.

To clinch the win McKeegan spelled ‘Moscow,’ the capital of Russia, and she will be going to our nation’s capital at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

The daughter of Shawn and Maura McKeegan, she said she’s looking forward to returning to Washington to compete in the event after boning up on her vocabulary even more than last year.

McKeegan said in addition to studying a list of many words supplied by the spelling bee’s coordinators, she has made a habit while reading of writing down unfamiliar words that might be included in the local, regional or national bees.

She admitted she faced stiff competition Saturday, saying, “Everyone was really good.”

The bee’s other nine finalists were: Morgan Lesnansky, an eighth- grader at Edison Junior High School, who placed second and also was last year’s runner-up; Abigail Gilman, an eighth- grader at Harding Middle School, third place; Emma Phillips, an eighth-grader at Edison Junior High School, fourth place; Maximilian Gan, a fifth-grader in the Ohio Virtual Learning Academy, fifth place; Jackie O’Karma, a sixth-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Elementary School, sixth place; Lindsey Zifzal, a seventh-grader at Indian Creek Middle School, seventh place; Darren Jiang, a fifth-grader at Karaffa Elementary School, eighth place; Cara Motto, a fifth-grader at Buckeye South Elementary School, ninth place; and Elizabeth Bolock, a fifth-grader at Buckeye West Elementary School.

Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times, said in the 35 years the newspaper has presented the bee, Saturday’s event was the longest, finishing in one hour and 57 minutes.

Forty-nine other competitors from the Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Harrison Hills City, Indian Creek Local, Steubenville City and Toronto City school districts; Bishop John King Mussio Elementary School, the Heart of Mary Homeschool Network, Jefferson County Christian School and the Ohio Virtual Learning Academy were gradually eliminated over 19 rounds.

In that time the pupils correctly spelled such words as paddock, macron, automaton, pangolin, neologism, peccadillo, archipelago, keest and punctilio.

As the winner, McKeegan will receive an all- expenses paid trip to the National Bee, which will be held as part of Bee Week at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., where she will be able to meet see the Washington area and meet fellow bee competitors from many parts of the world.

She also will receive a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a 2018 U.S. Mint proof set donated by Jay Sugarman, chairman and chief executive officer of iStar Financial and longtime bee supporter in honor of his father, who revered academic achievement.

As runner-up, Lesnansky will receive a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.

And Gilman, Phillips and Gan will receive a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus for placing third through fifth. All of the final 10 finishers received trophies, and all participants received a $25 gift certificate and book bag from Huntington Bank.

Other sponsors included the Hess Corp., WesBanco, PNC Bank, Special Tactics and Rescue Training, 360 Safe Solutions, Tri-State Financial Solutions, Franciscan University of Steubenville, McBane Insurance and Financial Services and the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Ron Sismondo, the bee’s coordinator, expressed thanks to the bee’s sponsors, local schools for participating in the competition and volunteers, including Mary Ann Zeroski, pronouncer; Paula Diorio, her assistant; professors Stephen Criniti and Jeremy Larance, both of West Liberty University, and Connie Salvayon of Eastern Gateway Community College.

Gallabrese joined Sismondo in thanking the many who worked behind the scenes as well as parents and other family members who helped the pupils to prepare.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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