FORT WAYNE – One by one, student spellers approached the microphone on stage inside the Rhinehart Music Center's Auer Performance Hall at IPFW.
One by one, spellers were eliminated with the ding of a bell signaling the incorrect spelling of words like "hors d'oeuvre," "wainscot" and "beleaguer."
After 24 rounds, Lwin Moe Aung, a sixth-grader from Lutheran South Unity School, took the top spot with the correct spelling of "proficient." Lwin will advance to the regional competition against other top county spellers from northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
Nearly 70 students in grades 4-8 participated in Saturday's 59th annual Journal Gazette Allen County Spelling Bee presented by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and IPFW in partnership with Barrett & McNagny Attorneys at Law.
Many prepared for weeks leading up to the event Saturday.
Lwin Moe Aung said he enlisted the help of spellingcity.com, a site that builds literacy skills through games. Lwin seemed relieved when the bee ended, after about three hours of spelling.
He said afterward he simply felt "happy" after his win, an improvement over achieving fourth place in last year's event.
Kyla Macaraig, an eighth-grader at Concordia Lutheran Lower School, was disappointed with her runner-up finish. She said afterward that she should have spelled more slowly and taken more time to think through the word. She replaced an "e" for the "y" while in the misspelling of "gentry". Macaraig also took second place last year.
Macaraig and Lwin Moe Aung went through six intense rounds of back and forth spelling. In an earlier round, it appeared that Macariaig might take the top spot. When just two spellers remain and one speller misspells a word in a round, the other speller must correctly spell the championship word. In one of the rounds, Lwin Moe Aung misspelled a word, giving Macaraig a chance to spell 'gentry' for the title. But when she did not, it gave Lwin Moe Aung another chance.
New Haven Middle School seventh-grader Jackson Parrish earned fourth place in the bee, but left IPFW feeling good about his performance compared with his appearance in the bee two years ago.
"Last time, I only made it to the third round," he said. "This year I studied really hard."
The 14-county regional spelling bee will be March 9, also in the Auer Performance Hall in Rhinehart Music Center at IPFW. The winner of that competition will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington in May.