Practice makes perfect

Tara Bradbury
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Busy bee takes top honours for second year at 2012 Telegram Postmedia Canspell regional spelling bee

How do you spell “champion?”

Here’s a hint: it begins with the letter J.

Twelve-year-old Jennifer Mong of St. John’s proved herself the queen bee once again, as she took first place in the 2012 Telegram Postmedia Canspell Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Spelling Bee. It’s the second year in a row the MacDonald Drive Junior High School student has been crowned winner of the bee, and her fourth year in the Top 3: three years ago she ended up in first place, and she came second the next year.

Fifty-five spellers between Grades 4 and 8 from around the island, each having outspelled more than 1,800 local students in school-level competitions, stepped up to the microphone one by one on stage at College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s, spelling words given to them by Thomas Goud, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick. Judges for the event were Junior Achievement president and CEO Sandra Patterson; The Telegram’s managing director, Kerry Hann; and Shannon Patrick Sullivan, lecturer in MUN’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

After 13 rounds, it was down to Jennifer and Brother Rice Junior High school student JinJi Dawson, last year’s third place winner. After JinJi mispelled “cinephile,” Jennifer correctly spelled “symmetrical.” She was then given her championship word: “toreador.”

Some spellers closed their eyes to try to see the correct spelling of their word in the dictionary; others used their finger to “write” the word on their hand or arm. Jennifer’s strategy was the same as last year: she asked for the definition of every word, whether she felt she knew the correct spelling or not.

“Sometimes, when I practiced with my mom and dad, I’d hear the word wrong, and I just wanted to make sure,” she explained.

It’s been a busy few weeks for Jennifer, who, in addition to studying spelling words, has been studying piano and violin. Last week, she earned six first-place and two second-place awards at the Kiwanis Music Festival.

“I think I’m going to sleep all day tomorrow,” she said, laughing.

The students had each been given a list of 1,200 words to learn over the past month or so, in preparation for the regional bee. They weren’t all easy ones, either, including “muumuu” and “contrapuntal.”


Eleven-year-old Erin McDonald was eliminated in the sixth round, after misspelling “mesmerize,” but she wasn’t upset.

“I know not a lot of people do this, and I’m here with the best of the best,” said Erin, who, along with 12-year-old Kyle Fraser, came from Gander to compete in the regionals. “I’ll try again next year, if I can. I’ll be competing against kids older than me. I just think it’s really fun, coming here and meeting other kids and everything.” 

As winner, Jennifer will travel to Toronto at the end of the month for the Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee. If she’s successful there, she’ll go to Washington in May for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“These kids are obviously very skilled and have been spending a lot of time on studying,” said Telegram publisher Charlie Stacey. “We’re quite proud of Jennifer and we’re hoping she does well in Toronto. We’ll be cheering her on.”

As winner of the regional event, Jennifer was presented with a trophy and a cheque for $5,000 from the Egg Farmers of Canada — which she said would be going straight into the bank for her education fund, the same as last year’s cheque.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, MacDonald Drive Junior High School, University of New Brunswick Junior Achievement Department of Mathematics and Statistics.After Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee

Geographic location: MUN, Toronto, Kiwanis Gander Washington Canada

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