Vickers outlasts competition, wins EMS spelling bee
Can you spell dejvu?
For the second year in a row, Austin Vickers found himself under stage lights Thursday in the final rounds of the Eudora Middle School Spelling Bee. He had spent the past two hours strolling up to a microphone and deliberately spelling words given to him by a panel of his teachers.
The entire school heard each letter Vickers uttered.
At the beginning of the competition, eighth-grade English teacher and moderator Bob Sailler dubbed the competition "The Super Bowl of Spelling." Having been there before, Vickers knew what that meant.
As the empty seats started to surround him, he noticed one seat -- occupied by seventh-grader Kate Dennis -- didn't empty.
Last year, the two traded correctly spelled word after word in what amounted to a fast-paced verbal showdown. In the end, Dennis couldn't continue because of illness and Vickers was named winner several days later.
This year, it was all playing out the same way.
"It's weird because I just saw myself against Kate," he said. "I had a dream it was going to happen."
But this year, Vickers' final opponent wasn't Dennis, it was eighth-grader Chelsea Grammer.
Dennis finished third.
Throughout the competition, Grammer looked at the slowly thinning crowd as a positive.
"I was happy because I was getting closer to winning," she said.
The opponent was different, but the pace was the same for Vickers.
He had a chance to win early by spelling the word "perjury." He was one letter off and the bee continued.
At the 19th round of competition, Grammer missed the word "poisonous."
Vickers spelled it correctly and followed it up with "mahogany."
The final "y" marked the end of the competition and Vickers' third overall spelling bee victory.
"I knew most of the words," Vickers said.
For Sailler, the "Super Bowl of Spelling," went beyond the stage and microphone.
It marked the culmination of an entire spelling unit. During the past month, his students watched the spelling bee documentary "Spellbound," formed a spelling team and took on the faculty in a different bee and won.
He focused the unit on language and the competitive spirit in general, Sailler said.
"I think they need to start or begin to realize that academics is a competition and in another four years these students will be competing for scholarships," he said.
For the other competitors, the bee inspired a near universal sentiment.
"It's nerve-wracking. I mean you get really nervous," sixth-grader Tesla Hague said.
Sailler also stressed sportsmanship whether it was between the competitors or his students watching.
"I think there's a feeling of respect," Sailler said.
During the unit, Sailler noticed respect between the spellers and the audience in general.
Each time a student misspelled a word, the audience cheered for their effort.
With his victory, Vickers gets his name on a plaque in the middle school hallway and an opportunity to compete in the Douglas County Spelling Bee Feb. 24 at Southwest Junior High School in Lawrence.. He and all 30 competitors and six alternates were treated to lunch before the event.
As for the county competition, Vickers already has a plan to go further this year. Last year, he placed ninth.
"I'll be studying more," he said.
Fifth-grader Brody Riemann won the Eudora West spelling bee by correctly spelling 'waltz.' Fourth-grader Chloe O'Dell finished second.