PIQUA — It started with eight … and then there was one.
After less than an hour, during which such terms as “velcro,” and “mahogany” stumped even the most masterful wordsmiths, Gage Hammer, a Piqua Junior High School seventh grader, was declared the winner of the Piqua City-Wide Spelling Bee.
Held Thursday evening at Piqua Central Intermediate School, the bee found the eight competing students — who had won spelling bees at their respective schools — facing off for the title of victor.
Using a list generated by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the event began with such relatively easy words as “down,” “smug,” “thumb,” “apart” and “curly,” and all of the students survived the first round.
But as the list moved on to trickier terms like the homonym “leaky,” as well as “priority,” “annual” and “saucepan,” the numbers began to dwindle. By round nine, it was a showdown between Hammer and Piqua Catholic sixth grader Wyatt Earhart.
Earhart held his own for three rounds before being felled by “mahogany,” after which Hammer — sporting a stylish mohawk — correctly spelled “avalanche” and “perpetrator” to clinch the deal.
All of the students received plaques for competing, with Hammer and Earhart receiving an additional award for being the winner and runner-up, respectively. Other competing students were Evan Trevino (Piqua Catholic); Lucy Weiss (Piqua Central); Ryan Bingham and Benjamin Thompson (Springcreek Primary); and Jack McMaken and Michael Locker (Washington Primary). Absent were Phillip Rossman (Piqua Central) and Layne Pequignot (Piqua Junior High).
Following the bee, Hammer and Earhart both said they spent “quite a bit of time” studying their word lists in preparation for Thursday’s contest.
“When I was in third grade, I did the spelling bee and I really liked it, so I wanted to try it again,” said Hammer, the son of Rachel and Brock Hall, and Billy Hammer. “I think the hardest word I got was ‘perpetrator.’”
Earhart, the son of Mike and Stacey Earhart, also was a returning competitor, having participated in last year’s bee.
Hammer will be required to take a 50-word online spelling and vocabulary test between Jan. 20 and Feb. 5, to advance to the next level of competition. The date and location of the next round will be announced at a future date.
The Piqua City-Wide Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Piqua Kiwanis Club, represented by Mark and Yvonne Wion, the latter of whom also served as the word pronouncer for the event. Piqua Central staffers Josh Kauffman, principal, and Kris Mitchem, a teacher, were the judges, and the bee was coordinated by Director of Curriculum Teresa Anderson.