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WASHINGTON Hard words pose no problem for Mahoning Valley spellers



Published: Wed, May 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



All three area spellers are still vying to become Ohio's first national champion since 1964.

STATES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Karen Cover might not know what rupicolous means, but she knows how to spell it.

Karen, a seventh-grader from Reed Middle School in Hubbard, is The Vindicator's representative at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee this week at a downtown Washington hotel.

Standing on stage in front of a dozen TV cameras, hundreds of spectators and a panel of judges, Karen, 13, was asked how to spell rupicolous.

She asked the judges to define it. They said it means "living among, inhabiting, or growing among rocks." Then she requested that they use rupicolous in a sentence. Finally, she asked for its language of origin -- Latin.

Karen repeated the word out-loud twice, carefully enunciating each syllable. Then she slowly spelled it: R-U-P-I-C-O-L-O-U-S.

The audience applauded when the judges ruled it correct. A faint smile crept across Karen's face as she returned to her seat on the stage.

Competitors

She is one of 250 pupils from around the country competing in the 75th annual national spelling bee. In the first round this morning, 75 pupils were eliminated.

Karen and the other 174 remaining pupils, including two others from the Mahoning Valley, will compete in the second round this afternoon.

Holly Miller, a student at Lakeview High School, representing The Tribune-Chronicle of Warren, correctly spelled Appaloosa -- a breed of rugged saddle horses characterized by small dark spots on a white coat.

Lindsay Willett, 14, of South Side Middle School, Columbiana, representing The Salem News and East Liverpool Review for the second consecutive year, aced contretemps -- an inopportune and embarrassing occurrence or situation.

Final rounds

In the second round, the pupils will all hear the same 25 words, which they will have to write on a sheet of paper. The 80 to 110 contestants who spell the most words correctly will advance to Thursday's rounds, which will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Karen is cautiously optimistic. She says she tends to relax -- and improve -- in the later rounds of spelling bees. She also is looking forward to the written format in the second round.

"I think it will help because it's easier for me if I see the word, if I write it out," Karen said.

The secret to her success, she says, is low expectations.

"In my dreams I see myself getting past the first round, and maybe even the second. But I'm not really counting on it," Karen said before this morning's first round. "I haven't gone to a spelling bee expecting to win at all, so that doesn't make me all uptight and nervous."

"Everyone in my town says, 'What do you get if you win?' I'm like, 'Yeah, right‚' " she said with a laugh.

The national champion wins $12,000. Other contestants receive from $75 to $6,000, depending on when they are eliminated. By advancing to the second round, all three area spellers are guaranteed to collect at least $125 each.

In March's regional spelling bee, Karen outspelled 95 pupils from Mahoning and Trumbull counties to advance to the national competition. Now she, Holly and Lindsay are vying to become Ohio's first national champion since 1964, when an Akron student won.




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