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Raleigh County girl wins second Spelling Bee championship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You could call Elizabeth Koh a spelling bee "recidivist."

That word, and "glockenspiel," helped the Raleigh County eighth-grader claim her second Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee championship.

Elizabeth beat out 39 spellers at the competition, held at Capital High School on Saturday. She now will go on to represent the Gazette-Mail at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., held in May.

This bee was co-sponsored by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and Lumos Networks.

The early rounds were brutal: 15 spellers dropped out in round two, six left the competition in round four, and seven spelled out in round five.

By round six, only eight spellers remained.

Tough words like "vaquero" and "eiderdown" whittled down the field even further, leaving just four spellers to compete in round 10: Koh, Lauren Coccari of Sissonville Middle School, Kaitlyn Johnson of Gilbert Middle in Mingo County and Katelyn Sanders, a student at Oceana Middle School in Wyoming County.

Sanders misspelled "trepak" in round twelve. Coccari left the competition two rounds later when she added an "s" to "pernicious."

Her elimination left only Johnson and Koh in the bee. The pair went toe-to-toe for five rounds until Johnson  fumbled on "kitsch," leaving out that elusive "s."

According to bee rules, when only two spellers remain and one misspells a word, the last remaining speller must spell another word correctly to become the champion. Otherwise, the fallen speller reenters the competition.

After correctly spelling "recidivist," Koh then spelled "glockenspiel" to cement her victory.

"I just came here to do my best, like I always try to do," she said after the bee.

"I think a spelling bee's difficult every time. When you're nervous, it's even more difficult," she said.

Her mother, Rosemary, smiled ear to ear as her youngest daughter received the Gazette-Mail Regional Bee trophy for a second time.

"I'm so happy for her. It's her last year, and there's no more spelling bee in our family," Rosemary said.

Koh's brother Matthew was the regional bee champion in 2008 and runner-up in 2010.

For her victory Koh will receive a $2,500 SMART529 college savings plan through a program of the West Virginia Treasurer's office, the Samuel Louis Sugarman award (a $100 savings bond), a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online and a Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

But most importantly she will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held May 30-June 2 at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.

Koh made a good showing at last year's national bee but did not advance past the preliminary rounds. Only 41 of the 275 spellers that started the competition moved on.

This year, she said she plans to study harder to reach the national bee's televised rounds.

Runner-up Kaitlyn Johnson will receive a $150 cash prize, a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate, a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online and a copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Third-place winner Lauren Coccari will receive $75 in cash, a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate and a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Judges for Saturday's bee were Dr. Letha Zook, vice president of academic affairs for the University of Charleston; Carolyn Dorcas, a retired high school English teacher who continues to teach classes at Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College; and Mark Stotler, assistant director of academic affairs for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

Staff members at Capital High and the Kanawha County Schools Community Education Program helped conduct the bee.

Beverly McCoy, program manager for Bright Futures Learning Services, served as pronouncer.

WSAZ anchor Jessica Ralston served as emcee. The bee will be televised by WSAZ's sister channel, myZ, at 1 p.m. March 31.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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