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Pennsylvania Girl Wins Bee; “This is it. I’m Done With Spelling″

May 28, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Stephanie Petit, 13, of Bethel Park, Pa., survived ″staphylococci″ Thursday to win the 60th annual National Spelling Bee and then declared in triumph: ″I’m done with spelling.″

The dark-haired eighth-grader, wearing glasses, a white sweater and pastel print pants, defeated Rachel E. Nussbaum, 14, of Ithaca, N.Y., who was stumped on ″dyscalculia,″ starting to spell it ″d-i.″

A straight-A student who enjoys tennis and plays violin and piano, Stephanie said she studied spelling every day, including six hours each Saturday and Sunday.

″This is it. I’m done with spelling,″ she said, cradling her gold trophy cup in her arms.

In the ninth and final round, Stephanie, representing The Pittsburgh Press, corrected Rachel’s error on the term for an impairment of mathematical ability due to an organic brain condition.

She then spelled the winning word, which means bacteria infecting the skin and mucous membranes. It was the 877th word of the bee.

″I can’t believe this is me,″ she told reporters who mobbed the stage to get her reaction.

To earn the cup she also had to spell ″sheepishly,″ ″parrotlet″ - a small South American parrot; ″chogset″ - a striped or spotted fish of North America; ″epinephrine″ - a drug used to treat bronchial asthma; ″chatoyant″ - having a changeable or luster or color; ″postcibal″ - occurring after a meal; ″oenotherapy″ - use of wine for therapeutic purposes; and ″guilloche″ - an architectural ornament. She missed on ″tjaele″ - a Swedish word for frozen ground - in the last round, but so did Rachel.

All but the last round were on a miss-and-out basis. In the final round, the champion must correct the word missed by the runner-up and then successfully spell another word.

The largest-ever bee of 185 youngsters had narrowed to 15 - nine girls and six boys - by the start of the seventh round Thursday afternoon. Sixty-two youngsters fell out in four rounds Wednesday and another 108 stumbled in two more rounds Thursday morning.

Pennsylvania fielded the largest delegation this year, 15 youngsters. The winner last year was also from Pennsylvania - Jon Pennington of Shiremanstown.

Among those eliminated the second day this year was Andy Larson, a 14-year- old from Tequesta, Fla., competing for a record fourth time.

″This is as hard as it gets,″ Andy said after the fifth round. ″I don’t know if it will get harder or not.″

It did.

In the sixth round, he stumbled on ″euryene″ - meaning to have a broad or wide forehead. He spelled it ″euryine.″

The blond eighth-grader bowed his head and walked off stage to a nearby ″comfort room,″ returning unruffled in a few minutes to watch the remaining competition. He’ll be too old to compete next year.

Material for the first four rounds was taken from the practice book ″Words of the Champions″ and from regional spelling lists available to the contestants. From the fifth round on, any entry in the 2,662-page Webster’s Third New International Dictionary was fair game.

Five youngsters competing for the third time spelled down Thursday. Of 29 making a second appearance, three made it into the final 15: Eric J. Wade, 13, of Driggs, Idaho; Joe Chevalier, 14, of Normal, Ill., who finished fourth in 1986, and Lynn Cabral, 13, of El Paso, Texas.

The youngest speller to survive until the afternoon was 10-year-old Laura C. Mitchell, of Wichita Falls, Texas. She spelled down on ″phengite″ - a transparent or translucent stone.

The spelling bee, sponsored by Scripps Howard newspapers, included youngsters from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

This year’s contestants, 92 boys and 93 girls, were sponsored by 182 daily, weekly and Sunday newspapers. Each youngster already is a spelling champ, since the competitors were selected from 8 million to 9 million students who participated in the 1987 bee at the local level.

The spelling champ receives $1,500 plus other prizes; and the runner-up, $1,000. Third prize is $750; fourth prize, $500; fifth, $400; sixth, $300; seventh through 10th, $200; and all other competitors will receive $50.

Spellers and their parents are scheduled to meet President Reagan at a reception Friday afternoon at the White House.

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