Gazette-Mail Spelling Bee
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After reciting more than 80 words, and often their definition and language of origin, pronouncer Kenny Bass summed up the final rounds of the Kanawha County Spelling Bee.
"This is appropriate," he said. "The next word is 'impasse.'" Varun Kukkillaya, a 7th grader at John Adams Middle School, spelled that word correctly, as he had all the words that came before it. And his competitor, Andrew Jackson Middle School 7th grader Lauren Volk, spelled her next word, "teriyaki," correctly as well.
She didn't misspell her next word either, and neither did Kukkillaya. For 72 rounds the pair went back and forth without missing a word.
In the end, officials declared it a tie - the first tie in the history of the Kanawha County bee.
"I actually ran out of words," Bass said. "And that's just freaking amazing."
It all started four hours earlier, with 62 spellers from the county school system. One by one they approached the microphone and were given a word. After spelling it they walked away eyeing the four judges, waiting for the fateful sound of a bell, the signal that they'd misspelled the word.
Thirty-eight kids heard that bell ring after spelling their first word and were eliminated in round one, getting caught up on words like "anthropomorphic" and "annihilation."
Over the next ten rounds the field was winnowed down from 25 to two: Kukkillaya and Volk. The pair went back and forth for the next 70 rounds, breezing through words like "terrapin," "lederhosen," and "ocarina."
Only once did either misspell a word. Kukkillaya, the first to step to the microphone, missed "dachshund." But then Volk also misspelled her next word, "femininity," so the spelling continued.