It pays to know your cholesterol, 11-year-old Jennifer Mong will tell you.
On Saturday, Jennifer, a Grade 7 student at MacDonald Drive Junior High School, was named the winner of the 2011 Telegram Postmedia Canspell Newfoundland and Lab-ador Regional Spelling Bee, held at MUN’s Reid Theatre in St. John’s.
Fifty-nine students between grades 4 and 8 from around the province — each one having won spelling bees in their own school — competed against each other, stepping up to the microphone one at a time to spell the word given to them by pronouncer Thomas Goud, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Bruns-wick.
Judges for the event were Sandra Patterson, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Newfoundland and Labrador; Shannon Patrick Sullivan, lecturer in MUN’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Telegram reporter Moira Baird.
Just 13 spellers were eliminated in the first round.
The numbers dwindled after that, until Round 10, when there were just three students left: Jennifer, 11-year-old Julia Abundo of Virginia Park Elementary, and 12-year-old JinJi Dawson of Brother Rice Junior High.
JinJi was eliminated in that round, after misspelling the word “competency.”
Julia was eliminated in the next round, having misspelled “parliament,” but was brought back in the bee, as the rules stated, after Jennifer spelled her anticipated championship word, “aqueduct,” incorrectly. Jennifer and Julia went head-to-head for two more rounds, until Julia misspelled “interrogative,” and Jennifer got her championship word, “cholesterol,” right.
When given the final word to spell by Goud, Jennifer smiled broadly and was visibly excited, though she asked for the definition. She told The Telegram afterwards, this was “just to make sure, I guess.”
“Oh, I was really happy that I knew how to spell it,” Jennifer said.
This wasn’t Jennifer’s first time taking part in The Telegram Postmedia Canspell spelling bee: two years ago she ended up in third place, and last year came second.
She didn’t expect to win this year, she said, “but I hoped I would.”
Most of those who were disqualified took it well, congregating in the green room to snack on cookies and chips before being reunited with their parents. For many of them, their disqualification came only after they were unable to spell words they had never even heard of.
Mary Shorlin, 11, was disqualified in the fifth round after misspelling “kavya;” a style of classical Sanskrit poetry. The Grade 6 student, who had studying thousands of words with her dad’s help over the past month, wasn’t too disappointed, however.
“I’m kind of relieved, actually,” she said. “I don’t have to study anymore.”
For Jennifer, who said she practised spelling with her parents by choosing random words out of the dictionary, the studying isn’t quite over yet: she will go to Toronto later this month, where she will compete in the Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee. If she’s successful there, it’s on to Washington for the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I think I’ll go back to my old habits,” Jennifer said of her strategy to win the national bee.
As the winner of the regional event, Jennifer was presented with a $5,000 education fund from Egg Farmers of Canada, a Sony eBook reader from The Telegram, and a trophy.
“Proficiency in spelling provides young people with the tools they need to nurture a lifelong love of reading and learning,” said Telegram publisher Charlie Stacey. “Something as simple as a spelling bee can help expand vocabularies and encourage curiosity and imagination to flourish.
“We believe this is a great outlet for students. It allows them to exercise their minds.”