AVON — Emelie Ojukwu of First Baptist Christian School is headed to Washington, D.C., after winning the local spelling bee Friday night in a lengthy duel with fellow finalist Aum Desai.
“It feels great and my legs hurt and I’m hungry,” Emelie, 13, said with a smile after the nearly three-hour event ended.
The final two words that secured his victory were “poignant” followed by “azimuth,” but Emelie very nearly didn’t get the chance to face off with Aum, a 13-year-old Amherst Junior High School student.
Of the 32 students who began the night, all but seven were eliminated by the seventh round. But only Aum spelled the word correctly in that round, which put him into the final round.
The other six spellers, including Emelie, who had been eliminated in the seventh round were brought back to compete for the final spot.
In round eight all of the spellers missed their words, prompting them all to return for a ninth round, during which four of the spellers got their words correct.
After 10 rounds, three were left. But the 11th round allowed Emelie to clinch his spot against Aum.
The two spent more than an hour going back and forth trying to get enough words right to claim victory.
“It was a very exhilarating experience,” Aum said after the final words of the night.
Asked what word he’d use to describe the night, Emelie paused for a second, then replied “nerve-wracking.”
His father, Mbanefo Ojukwu, said he and his wife, Ifeoma Ojukwu, are proud of their son and relieved that he made it through the night.
“We’re very happy, very pleased that he was able to withstand the stress,” he said.
The family is no stranger to spelling bee finals. Emelie’s sister, Ozi Ojukwu, was runner-up three years ago and his brother, Ebuka Ojukwu, came close two years ago.
Bonnie Parker, who advises spellers from First Baptist Christian School, said Emelie and his siblings worked hard to make it that far in the competition. Emelie, the youngest, also is the last of his family she’ll coach.
“He’s the end of our Ojukwu dynasty,” Parker said. “He’s just such an amazing speller.”
The bee is sponsored by The Chronicle-Telegram and the Educational Service Center of Lorain County. Emelie will compete in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee Competition the week of May 28.