For some contestants, Vindy Bee is family tradition



Among the 66 competitors in today’s Vindicator 79th Annual Regional Spelling Bee are members of two spelling dynasties.

Victoria Jones-Burney, 10, a fifth-grader at Youngstown Community School, is making her second appearance in the bee. Victoria, a daughter of Lisa Jones and Robert Burney, also competed last year.

Her brother, Jabraelyn Jones, 16, and a student at Youngstown Early College, competed as an eighth-grader at the former Eagle Heights Academy. Their mother, Lisa Jones, competed in 1986 while a sixth-grader at the former Bennett Elementary School.

Matthew August Rossi, 10, a fifth-grader at Holy Family School in Poland, makes his bee debut today. His older brother, Andrew, though, competed in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 in fifth through eighth grades at Holy Family. Both boys are sons of Becky and Gregg Rossi of Poland.

Victoria says she’s been studying every day using the list of spelling bee words and, an online vocabulary and spelling aid. Jabraelyn was the one who told her about the online tool.

“We make sure she knows the words we missed,” Lisa Jones said.

The word that knocked her out was facsimile, and etymology stumped Jabraelyn.

Last year, Victoria misspelled nougat, eliminating her in round five.

She knows how to spell it now.

Even little sister Renee Burney, who turns 7 today, helps Victoria with the words. She wants to compete in the bee when she gets old enough.

Lisa Jones quizzes her daughter daily, sometimes on the way to the bus stop.

“I think she gets sick of it sometimes,” she said.

Jabraelyn tried to work with his younger sister, instructing her in foreign words and the tricks to spelling those correctly.

Matthew has been using the spelling bee word list to prepare for the bee, too.

“My dad has been asking me words from that,” Matthew said. “If I spell it correctly, he tells me. If I misspell it, he gives me the correct spelling.”

He’s been trying to work on the words every night.

“We did French challenge words a few nights ago,” Matthew said.

Words with a foreign origin can be tricky, he said, so he’s trying to learn those.

The practice seems to be paying off as Matthew misses a word the first time and then learns the correct spelling.

“Camouflage is one,” Matthew said. “The U comes after the O — that’s one that I missed the first time and now I know.”

He doesn’t employ any special tools or strategy when he has to spell a word. It just pops into his head.

“I think it’s being able to spell the word and being able to remember the spelling — photographic memory basically.”

Each contestant will receive a Merriam-Webster 11th edition Collegiate dictionary, courtesy of The Vindicator, as well as a Vindicator Spelling Bee T-shirt and a school champion certificate.

The winner of today’s bee will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 27 through June 1. The Vindicator will pay for transportation, hotel accommodations and other expenses for the grand champion and his or her adult escort.

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