Siblings take top two spots at county spelling bee
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MOUNT VERNON — Ironically enough, the first word missed in competition during Thursday night’s 59th Annual Knox County Spelling Bee was “eliminate.”
After that, a gripping contest that lasted about an hour and eight minutes — with 11 exciting rounds at the end that pitted two Fredericktown Middle School siblings against each other — unfolded. They competed before an appreciative audience of parents, educators and well wishers in the Mount Vernon Middle School Library.
A valiant third-place effort went to Mount Vernon Middle School eighth-grader Julie King. Before bowing out in round 18 on the word “galette,” she had correctly spelled words like “miscreant,” “treacle,” and “kelpies” in previous rounds.
Round 18’s other two remaining competitors know each other well, and, in fact, live in the same Fredericktown home with the same parents — Donald Cobb, an accountant with Kokosing Construction Co., and his wife Lisa, a self-described stay-at-home mom. Her children appear, from their accomplishments, to benefit a great deal from her sticking close by to encourage them. One of their other children, Katie Cobb, won the same Spelling Bee in 2014 on the word “nigh.” She’s now a student at Mount Vernon Nazarene University studying accounting — as good math skills also seem to run in this family.
During round 18, Brandon Cobb, a seventh-grader and the 2017 county Spelling Bee champion, spelled “acclamations” correctly to move on to Round 19. There, he faced off against his sister, sixth-grader Kristen Cobb. She won the title last year on the word “clandestine.” To get to round 19 mano a mano vs. brother Brandon, she first spelled “Babylon.”
Then the two went toe-to-toe before master of ceremony/word pronouncer Don Garvic, a gifted and enrichment program educator with the Knox County Educational Service Center. He was backed by three judges on matters of importance, county commissioners Teresa Bemiller, Thom Collier and Bill Pursel. Garvic had emceed 20 grade-level spelling bees at five area school districts over the past two months, so having the commissioners on hand to help each year in the county bee is a big plus.
“They (commissioners) are here for two reasons — to make sure my words are pronounced correctly, and to make sure the kids spell them correctly,” Garvic said.
Before all was said and done, after 29 total rounds of spelling, a “first” was achieved. Brandon Cobb and his sister, reigning champion Kristen Cobb, were such outstanding spellers that Garvic said he had exhausted his first words list, about 40 pages worth and more than 400 words to draw from, before switching to a new list. That has not happened before with his involvement as master of ceremony.
Starting in Round 19, with Brandon going first, and his sister Kristen second, they successfully spelled:
•“Fascist” and “ligatures”
•“electrolysis” and “grenadier”
•“diffidence” and “prevaricate”
•“flambeau” and “aphorism”
•“balustrades” and “unguent”
•“execreations” and “proboscis”
•“Leipzig” and “lobelia”
•“jacquerie” and “exordium”
•“tergiversation” and “aufwiedersehen”
Following those correctly spelled words, Garvic delved into a words list in Round 28, of words which the brother-sister duo had not studied, though they had studied all previous words to a tee — including practicing together, a half hour or so each night, the week before competition. Each had prevailed in at their grade level in their school, as had 14 other Spelling Bee competitors. Three students were unable to attend.
Brandon Cobb was tripped up on the word “potency” in Round 28, using a “d” instead of a “t.” His sister, Kristen, then correctly spelled her word — “humidity.” But she still had one more word to spell correctly to win another title, and she did so in Round 29, the word being “podium.”
It will definitely go down as a county Spelling Bee for the ages, Garvic said, given its length and exhausted words list.
Spelling Bee competitors, who receive their words from the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, are allowed to ask that the word be used in a sentence, for the part of speech, for the language of origin, and to have a word repeated. Tami Henry, one of the Spelling Bee coordinators and a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, said she will work more with students next year on asserting their right to receive clues that will help them, like language of origin.
Kristen and her brother Brandon received champion and runner-up trophies, as well as Walmart gift certificates. All 16 competitors received T-shirts and gift certificates to Colonial Books. Kristen now has the opportunity to compete in her regional Spelling Bee online.
All 16 students on-hand to compete in the 59th Annual Knox County Spelling Bee, by school district, were:
•Centerburg: Dylan Meier, grade 6, Elliott Collins, grade 7, Oliver Griffith, grade 8;
•Danville: Jeffrey Cook, grade 5, Danny Bradley, grade 6, Alayna Arnal, grade 7, Tessa Ferenbaugh, grade 8;
•East Knox: Jasmine Smith, grade 5, Natalie Price, grade 6, Hiba Ezzarouali, grade 7;
•Fredericktown: Caitlyn Roddy, grade 5, Kristen Cobb, grade 6, Brandon Cobb, grade 7, Jacklynn Bolton, grade 8.