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ISSUE 121 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/21/2008

Abecedarians compete

By Kirstin Fawcett
Copy Editor

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Friday night, over 100 students packed themselves into the Pause not to listen to a blistering rock concert, nor to laugh at a sold-out comedienne's jokes, but instead, to bear witness to an infamous childhood rite of passage: the spelling bee.

Sponsored by SAC and coordinated by Emily Holm '08, St. Olaf's first annual Spelling Bee was held on the Pause main stage. Although the bee itself did not start until 7:30 p.m., participants were required to arrive a half-hour early for a preliminary elimination round.

Over 30 hopeful contestants showed up, and were in turn handed a blank piece of paper on which they were supposed to write out the spelling of 10 difficult words before progressing to the actual bee. Sure enough, roughly half the crowd was weeded out after misspelling words such as "caffeine" and "synecosis," leaving approximately 15 students to compete in the main event.

The remaining contestants filed on stage to await the judges, which were comprised of professors Paul Zorn, Shelley Dickenson and David Gonnerman. The trio, which has successively won Northfield's last two annual spelling bees, were armed and ready with contest instructions: Each student would be given a word, along with its etymology, definition and an accompanying sentence. Elimination would occur with a word's misspelling, and no repeats or "make-ups" were allowed. After only two contestants remained, each would spell a word until the other made a mistake. The competitor who could correct the misspelled word and get another one right would be the grand prize winner.

After clarifying the bee's rules, the judges began rattling off words." The first two words of the match, "domineering" and "dormancy," were spouted with ease.

However, the bee's third contestant was eliminated after incorrectly inserting "a" into "dormitories." Unruffled by their opponent's mistake, students continued to spell words correctly until a second elimination (this time caused by "disintegration") was followed by an additional two mistakes. Only 11 students remained onstage, tackling spellings ranging from mildly complicated (diuretic) to downright difficult (festschrift).

Slowly yet inevitably, the misspellings of words such as "proselytize," "pullulate" and "pterodactyl" whittled the crowd of contestants down to two students. Alaina Burkard '08 and Kathleen LaRochelle '08 remained onstage, spewing various words back and forth until LaRochelle faltered on "accipiter." Burkhard amended LaRochelle's mistake, but was unable to correctly spell "existocia."

The spelling bee came to a close when LaRochelle misspelled "ranine." Burkhard, given the bee's final word, was awarded with thunderous applause after her correct spelling of "abecedarian" ended the night's nearly two-hour battle of words.

Burkhard and LaRochelle were then granted the first and second place prizes of an iPod Touch and a $50 Target gift certificate.

A thrilled Burkhard ruminated on her good luck, saying "I just lost my iPod yesterday! I needed this." The awards, which together cost $400, were provided for the SAC through SGA funds.

Students and SGA members alike all hope that St. Olaf's first annual Spelling Bee will become a yearly Pause tradition. Contestant Ian Hathway '11, eliminated from the bee after misspelling "dormancy," plans to try again next spring. "The bee is a great idea, and lots of fun," Hathway said.

Similarly, SCA coordinator Keshia Hohenstein '08 hopes that the spelling bee will enjoy similar popularity next year: "It is really fun to do new things like this, and diversify the types of events we havethat was one of the goals I had for SAC this year."

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