DIXON – Ogle County eighth-graders were like two brainiac bookends up on the stage, politely battling it out for the title of queen bee. Brunette and bespectacled Lena, bold and confident on one side of the stage. Tall, blond Anna, reserved and intense, on the other.
It was Round 22, and 24 other spellers from grades three through eight had been eliminated. It was down to the two slim 14-year-olds.
Heifer, Lena spelled.
Wainscot, Anna lobbed back.
Guillotine. Troika. Taupe. Glasnost. Beleaguer. Perennial. Banzai. Eiderdown.
Neither gave an inch. The audience waited in the darkened auditorium, silent and still.
Then the inevitable.
Hippopotamus. H-i-p-p-o-t-a-m-u-s. Immediately, Lena knew her mistake.
Anna’s turn. She spelled forsythia, to finish round 28, then camphor, to take Round 29.
With that, and a sweet, subdued smile, Anna Snider, the Forreston Junior High School spelling champ, became the winner of the 2014 Lee/Ogle Regional Spelling Bee, held Thursday in the Dixon High School auditorium.
She won an all-expenses-paid trip for two to National Harbor, Md., just south of Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May. She will take her mom, Stephanie; father Matt will hold down the fort at home.
Anna also won a $100 U.S. savings bond, a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and an online subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica.
This was Anna’s third time at the regional bee. In a manner reminiscent of Helen Keller, she used her fingers to spell the words in her hand, a method a few of the other kids used, as well.
“I’m a visual learner,” said Anna, a future physician. “It’s so I can see the word.”
Aplington Middle School’s Lena Baumann, who has designs on becoming an architect, took second. The Polo teen, daughter of Mike and Donna Snider, won a Kindle Fire and a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
Ashton-Franklin Center eighth-grader Jonah Awalt, of Ashton, a strong contender all the way through Round 21, when he stumbled over that first “h” in diphthong, won a $40 gift certificate to Books on First in Dixon.
All 26 participants got trophies for winning their school’s contest.
The Whiteside County bee will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at Morrison Junior High.
From Ackman to Zeigler, all 26 contestants in Thursday's Lee/Ogle Regional Spelling Bee already were winners: Each participant is this year's top speller at his or her school. They are:
Jacob Ackman, fifth-grader, St. Mary Elementary School, Dixon.
Jonah Awalt, eighth-grader, AFC Middle School, Franklin Grove.
Lena Baumann, eighth-grader, Aplington Middle School, Polo.
Sam Benson, fifth-grader, Paw Paw Elementary School.
Owen Dunseth, third-grader, Monroe Center Grade School.
Ian Eller, fourth-grader, Amboy Central Elementary.
Kelly Grim, seventh-grader, Byron Middle School.
Logan Griswold, sixth-grader Reagan Middle School, Dixon.
Juila Hoelzer, eighth-grader, Paw Paw Junior High School.
McAuley Humphrey, fifth-grader, Oregon Elementary School.
Brielle Jackson, eighth-grader, St. Paul Lutheran School, Rochelle.
Grace Johnson, fifth-grader, Jefferson Elementary School, Dixon.
Crue Larsen, fifth-grader, Tilton Elementary School, Rochelle.
Celia Loeffelholz, fifth-grader, Kings Elementary School, Rochelle.
Makenna Malarchik, fourth-grader, Central Elementary School, Rochelle.
Dominick Mazzarisi, eighth-grader, Rochelle Middle School.
Ella McKinney, fourth-grader, May Elementary School, Rochelle.
Clayton Metheny, eighth-grader, David L. Rahn Junior High School, Mount Morris.
Azeneth Milan, fifth-grader, Lincoln Elementary School, Rochelle.
Taylor Miller, fifth-grader, Forreston Grade School.
Logan Moody, third-grader, Lincoln Elementary School, Dixon.
Kaitlyn Ortgiesen, seventh-grader, Amboy Junior High School.
Jason Riddell, fourth-grader, Steward Elementary School.
Anna Snider, eighth-grader, Forreston Junior High School.
Kirsten Tunink, eighth-grader, St. Anne School, Dixon.
Rebekah Zeigler, third-grader, Centennial Elementary School, Polo.