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Seventh-graders vie for top spot in bee

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AVON — It was a battle between two seventh-graders at the end of the preliminary round of the 33rd annual spelling bee Friday at Avon Middle School.

Within an hour into the bee, the final two contestants, Renee Clippinger and Aum Desai began spelling word after word in an effort to be crowned the winner. A total of nine words were spelled between the two spellers.

In the end, Renee, 12, a student at South Amherst Firelands Middle School, correctly spelled the final two words: Meistersinger, a member of a German guild in the 15th and 16th centuries and concerto, meaning a piece of music for one or more main instruments with an orchestra. She was deemed the winner of the bee.

Aum, 12, a student at Amherst Junior High School, was the runner-up. The third finalist was Midview Middle School student Joshua Prunty.

Renee, the daughter of Todd and Melanie Clippinger, said she devoted up to three hours per night practicing for the bee.

“I’m so excited for her because she worked a lot,” her mom said.

Renee’s seventh-grade language arts teacher and spelling bee adviser Chris Pelphrey shared the same sentiment.

“I was confident that she’d be in the top 16,” he said. “She spent a lot of time on the words and I am very proud that she won.”

Likewise, Aum’s seventh-grade English language arts teacher and adviser Katie Wohlever admitted she had a feeling he would do well in the competition.

“He works very hard and has studied quite a bit,” she said of her pupil’s dedication.

Nerves settled down after the first rounds, allowing the final two spellers to relax just a bit before the final round began.

“It’s what I expected it to be,” Renee said of the bee Friday night.

Toward the end, Aum, the son of Ganesh and Feni Desai, knew it was all or nothing; and he focused solely on spelling the remaining words correctly.

The 33rd annual spelling bee is sponsored by the Educational Service Center of Lorain County and The Chronicle-Telegram. The second preliminary bee will be 7 p.m. Friday at the Avon Middle School off Long Road. The final 16 spellers from Friday night’s bee will go head-to-head with the final 16 from next Friday’s bee. The final spelling bee will be 7 p.m. March 18 at the same location.

The finalist will represent the Educational Service Center Region 2 and The Chronicle-Telegram at the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee Competitions the week of May 23 in Washington, D.C.

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