Leetonia speller heading back to national bee

LISBON – Leetonia eighth-grader Sash Davis will make a return trip to the nation’s capital, but it took a lot longer to punch his ticket the second time around.

Davis and another Leetonia student, seventh-grader Shawn Greathouse, were back as the last two standing at the 55th annual Columbiana County Spelling Bee at David Anderson High School on Monday.

What took just 14 rounds last year took 57 this year. Davis correctly spelled “reductive” to win the bee Monday, and will now get ready for a return trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I’m just very ecstatic if I could use one of my spelling words,” Davis said. “I’m really happy to be able to go back and see some of the people that I met and made friends with last year and see it again.”

Davis won another all-expenses paid trip, along with an adult chaperone, to Washington, D.C., where he will participate in the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee, set May 24-30 at the Gaylord National in Oxon Hill, Md.

Davis looks forward to the experience that he shared last year as he mentioned some of last year’s sights and sounds.

“I really enjoyed visiting the National Mall, and visiting all of the museums and monuments there,” Davis said. “I got to see the National Monument, then I studied. It was hot there, but I look forward to it again.”

Davis also won the Samuel L. Sugarman Award Certificate for a 2014 United States Mint Proof Set, a Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary and a one-year membership to Encyclopedia Britannica Online and a first-place plaque.

After Aiden Hooper, a seventh-grader from Wellsville, misspelled “babka” in the 12th round to claim fourth place, it was down to Davis, Greathouse, and Salem seventh-grader Bryce Owen, and it stayed that way for the next 31 rounds.

Owen stumbled on “scherzo” – a word meaning a movement or passage of light from playful character – in the 44th round, but looks forward to an opportunity at next year’s bee as he claimed his second runner-up plaque.

“I studied really hard, but I just didn’t know the word,” Owen said. “I just want to thank everyone for helping me with this.”

Then it was down to just Davis and Greathouse for the second straight year, and both went another 12 rounds before Greathouse stumbled on “collate” – a word which means to gather or arrange in proper sequence.

Regardless of the outcome, Greathouse enjoyed his return trip to the bee as he claimed his second-place prize of a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and a first runner-up plaque.

“I didn’t know the word, I had never heard it before,” Greathouse said. “Still, I am glad I was able to make it this far, and I am looking forward to next year and look to win it all next year.”

None of the top three, however, thought the bee would go as long as it did.

“I didn’t think it would go quite this far,” Greathouse said. “I was thinking maybe 20 or 30 rounds, but it was a good experience, and I will try it again next year.”

“I thought it might have gone 30 or 40 rounds myself,” Davis said.

Not even the bee’s pronouncer, Matthew Stewart, an English professor at Kent State’s East Liverpool campus, thought it would have taken this long. Stewart had to briefly delay round 53 to make sure the judges were able to see the same words he would use.

“Are we in need of additional words? The answer is yes,” Stewart said. “These kids have been doing their homework.”

Greathouse lasted 56 rounds, and by the way he performed, no one would have guessed he was under the weather either as he battled flu-like symptoms earlier in the day, but recovered in just enough time to compete.

“You did really good for not feeling good,” Lori Nichols, Shawn’s mother, told him as he left the high school.

Davis, meanwhile, is savoring the moment as he wins what became his final spelling bee appearance.

“It’s sad to not be able to participate next year,” Davis said. “I’m just going to keep studying and enhance my vocabulary for the future.”

The 55th annual bee was co-sponsored by the Salem News, Morning Journal, The Review and the Columbiana County Educational Service Center. The county’s three newspapers provided the prizes and will cover Davis’ expenses for his trip to Washington, D.C.

The 87th Scripps National Spelling bee will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 May 28 and 29.