MORRISON – Thirteen is her favorite number. Monday, it also turned out to be her lucky number.
Audrey Melton, who, until very recently was 13, drew the number 13 position in the Whiteside County Regional Spelling Bee, held in the Morrison Junior High School gym.
It was a spot she wasn’t supposed to have. Audrey, an eighth-grader at St. Andrew School in Rock Falls, found out at lunchtime Monday that she was replacing fifth-grader Isabella Trancoso, who fell ill and couldn’t compete.
Now it was Round 6, and of the 22 middle-school students competing, only she and Elizabeth Striley, an eighth-grader at Unity Christian School in Fulton, remained.
Elizabeth stumbled on cedilla, which is a mark written under the letter c, especially in French, to show that it is pronounced like an s rather than a k, such as in fašade.
The bright, cheery 13-year-old in black sparkly boots, participating in her first county bee, took it in stride.
Audrey successfully spelled orthodox, to finish the round. She stood alone in Round 7, winning with the word contiguous. Then she quietly freaked out a bit.
Her first-place prize is an all-expense-paid trip to National Harbor, Md., just south of Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May; a $100 U.S. savings bond, a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and an online subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica.
The kind, lanky brunette said she’s thrilled to win her first county spelling bee, but “What makes me feel really bad is, poor Bella! What a smart fifth-grader. It breaks my heart.”
Audrey, the daughter of Diane and M. Tod Melton, hopes to make a career acting and singing someday. If she makes it to the semifinals, the national competition could be her first national TV appearance.
Elizabeth, too, likes the idea of becoming a singer and an actor, and she also loves children, and may grow up to do something helpful with babies.
The second-place winner, daughter of Susan and Thomas Striley, also loves spelling, maybe because her mom put such an emphasis on it when Elizabeth was home-schooled, she said.
Elizabeth takes home a Webster’s Third International Dictionary and a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate.
As the third-place finisher, Matt Outzen, an eighth-grader at River Bend Middle School in Fulton, won a Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate. Coming in at No. 4, Emalie Chavira, a sixth-grader at East Coloma-Nelson, wins a Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and a $10 Amazon.com gift certificate.
All of the spellers who participated in Monday's bee took home a certificate and a pin. In addition to the top four contestants, they were:
Taylor Finn, fifth grade, Lincoln Elementary School in Sterling
Paige DeJonge, sixth grade, Challand Middle School in Sterling
Jacob Terveer, seventh grade, St. Andrew School in Rock Falls
Andrew Schrader, sixth grade, River Bend Middle School in Fulton
Morgan Mandrell, seventh grade, East Coloma-Nelson in Rock Falls and Nelson
Zach Wilbur, seventh grade, Unity Christian School in Fulton
Tristan Turner, fifth grade, and Caleb Heal, eighth grade, Christ Lutheran School in Sterling
Faith Sandrock and Delaney Wetzell, both in eighth grade, Montmorency School in Rock Falls
Ryan Heuerman, fifth grade, and Meagan Moore, seventh grade, St. Mary School in Sterling
Lexi Connelly, seventh grade, and Devyn Heymann, eighth grade, Erie Middle School
Madison Gould, seventh grade, and Hannah Washman, eighth grade, Rock Falls Middle School
Hannah Stralow and Clara Vegter, both in sixth grade, Morrison Junior High School
Watch it live
The Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals will air live on ESPN2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 29. The championship finals will air live on ESPN from 8 to 10 that night.
Go to www.spellingbee.com for all the details.