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Zachary Kuntz winner of regional spelling bee

TOP FINISHERS — Area students showed their word skills during Saturday’s 2019 Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee, Presented by the Herald-Star. The winner, Zachary Kuntz, a sixth-grade pupil from Stanton Elementary School, will represent our area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. Top finishers in the event, which was held at Buckeye North Elementary School in Brilliant, included, from left, front, Kuntz; Lindsey Zifzal, a pupil at Indian Creek Middle School, second; Cara Motto, a pupil at South Elementary School, third; Maximilian Gan, an Ohio Virtual Academy pupil, fourth; and Jordan Fritz, a pupil at Harding Middle School, fifth; back, Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times; Gary Stubbs, Wintersville branch manager of Huntington Bank; Cam’Ron Ajebe, a pupil at Harding Middle School, sixth; Sara Johnston, a pupil at Edison Junior High School, seventh; Mary Jones, a home-schooled pupil, eighth; Ember Davenport, a pupil at Harrison East Elementary School, ninth; Gianna Barker, a pupil at Harding Middle School, 10th place; and Ron Sismondo of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center and bee coordinator. -- Amy Neeley

BRILLIANT — It took 15 rounds and correctly spelling the word “valence” for Zachary Kuntz, a sixth-grader at Stanton Elementary School, to take the top prize in Saturday’s 2019 Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee, Presented by the Herald-Star, but the 11-year-old is now headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Kuntz, who is the son of Brian and Kasey Kuntz, said his win was not only a proud moment for him, but one of redemption.

“It makes me feel good considering I went out on the word ‘tomato’ the first time,” he said of coming in eighth in his school bee.

His great-grandmother, Sharon Grant, said she thinks it was nerves that got to him the first time, but this time he was ready to go all the way.

“We were always asking him ‘did you do your spelling?'” she said.

In addition to a trophy provided by the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, Kuntz will receive a prize package that includes the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award; a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopaedia Britannica; a one-year subscription to Merriam-WesbterUnabridged.com, courtesy of Merriam-Webster; $250 from Huntington Bank; and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national bee, paid for by the bee sponsors.

His father said he is sure one of the first things Zachary wanted to do was to take a nap.

“He didn’t get much sleep last night,” Brian Kuntz said.

“I stayed up pretty late last night,” Zachary admitted.

His mother, Kasey Kuntz, had trouble holding back the tears as her son received his prizes.

“This just shows you that hard work pays off,” she said. “He is just a wonderful kid.”

Zachary said it wasn’t just his hard work that got him to first place in Saturday’s event, which was held at Buckeye North Elementary School.

“I have always had great teachers,” he said.

His win made the day a little more special for his family — his older brother, Ben, celebrated his birthday on Saturday.

“His brother told him he had to win it for his birthday, and he did,” Grant said.

Ben, a senior at Edison High School, had just one word to describe his little brother — “phenomenal.”

Kuntz wasn’t the only awesome speller at the bee on Saturday.

Ross Gallabrese, the executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, said that at one hour and 58 minutes, this was one of the longest contests since the bee was started in 1985.

“This speaks well of the spellers and how well they were prepared,” Gallabrese said.

Rounding out the top 10 were Lindsey Zifzal, an eighth-grader at Indian Creek Middle School, second; Cara Motto, a sixth-grader at South Elementary School, third; Maximilian Gan, a sixth-grader in the Ohio Virtual Academy, fourth; Jordan Fritz, a seventh-grader at Harding Middle School, fifth; Cam’Ron Ajebe, a sixth-grader at Harding Middle School, sixth; Sara Johnston, a seventh-grader at Edison Junior High School, seventh; Mary Jones, a home-schooled sixth-grader, eighth; Ember Davenport, a fifth-grader at Harrison East Elementary School, ninth; and Gianna Barker, a sixth-grader at Harding Middle School, 10th.

The sponsors for this year’s bee included the Jefferson County Educational Service Center; Huntington Bank; Special Tactics and Rescue Training and 360 Safe Solutions; WesBanco; the Ohio Lottery; Gus’s Goodies; the Franciscan University of Steubenville; McBane Insurance; PNC Bank; and Tri-State Financial Services.

Each speller received a book bag courtesy of PNC Bank. All participants received $25 from Huntington Bank.

Huntington also donated $50 to the third-place finisher and $150 to the second-place finisher.

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