It was with seemingly enviable ease that 12-year-old Cassandra Clowe-Coish stood at the microphone and spelled the word “tenuous” Saturday at Macdonald Drive Junior High, winning The Telegram’s 2013 Spelling Bee and qualifying for this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee in May near Washington, D.C.
Fifty-seven students from 30 schools across the province competed in the event. After 11 rounds, plus the championship round, Cassandra won by spelling the anticipated championship word correctly.
“It was hard,” she said afterwards, though her demeanor suggested otherwise.
The competition was certainly stiff with 44 spellers making it through to the second round. “Cashew” was the first word to take a bite out of the competitors. By round six, there were still 15 eager contestants sounding out words and asking for the language of origin and definition of the word they were given.
Students were sent a word list to study earlier this year with many of the words used during the competition on it. Once it was obvious that the contestants left were not going to be tripped up by those words, they were asked to spell words they hadn’t seen before, at least not on the list they used to prepare.
After Round 10, three contestants remained. Cassandra was joined on stage by Claire MacLeod of
St. Bonaventure’s College and Matthew Williams of St. Paul’s Intermediate in Gander. “Arcane” brought it down to just Cassandra and Matthew. After Matthew misspelled “manifesto,” Cassandra secured the win with her final word.
For her fine spelling abilities and her composure under pressure, Cassandra won $3,000, a personal trophy and a dictionary along with a trophy that her school can display until next year’s bee.
As well as qualifying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., Cassandra’s airfare — for herself and one other — is taken care of by Porter Airlines. The Telegram is taking care of their hotel accommodations as well. Claire and Matthew both received prizes of $500 each.
Cassandra said she studied every day since she got her list of spelling bee words. What she likes about spelling is also what helped her win the contest.
“Maybe it’s finding out what words mean or where they’re from,” she said. “You can get information on the word and you kind of guess at the spelling.”
Jill Rose, Cassandra’s teacher at Holy Cross Junior High, was clearly proud of her student.
“We’re so happy with how it all turned out,” said Rose. “Cassandra is a great student and a great language arts student. She really enjoys spelling. She prepared quite a bit for this spelling bee today and she really deserves winning.”
This was the first year The Telegram and parent company TC Media took the event on themselves. In the past, The Telegram worked with organizer Postmedia to make the competition possible. When Postmedia advised last year that it was pulling out, The Telegram took on the event.
Charlie Stacey, The Telegram’s publisher, marvelled at the ability and dedication of the young spellers.
“It’s pretty tough,” said Stacey. “I would have been out the second or third round, if I made it that far. You can see there’s an amazing amount of work that they do for this.”
Stacey said that when Postmedia discontinued its program, there were a lot of reasons, both educational and personal, why a team at The Telegram wanted to continue with the spelling bee.
“It’s obviously within the area of literacy which is very important for the newspaper,” he said. “I think it’s got a bit of a soft spot with a number of us and we just wanted to make it happen because the students really enjoy it. They work hard so we just wanted to make it happen this year for them.”
After her victory, Cassandra was already looking forward to testing her skills at the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., and was already planning how one of her prizes could help her out.
“I got the dictionary now so I’m all set,” she said.