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Jamaican Girl Wins Spelling Bee

May 28, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Showing only a hint of the smile she held back for two days of killer words, Jody-Anne Maxwell, a 12-year-old from Jamaica, correctly spelled ``chiaroscurist″ Thursday to win the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

Jody-Anne, citing ``God and training″ as the secret to her success, won $10,000, an encyclopedia and other prizes for spelling the word, which means an artist who works in lights and darks.

She said she would share the prizes with Bettina McLean, 12, and Haydee Maria Lindo, 11, who also came from Jamaica and who shared Jody-Anne’s spelling coach, the Rev. Glen O.J. Archer, a Church of God minister.

Jody-Anne is the first winner from outside the United States and its territories in the spelling bee’s 71-year history. Despite the competition’s title, organizers said it is open to contestants from any country.

``Mr. Archer coached everybody. But, as you know, only one person can win. And God happened to just choose me,″ she said as she stood beside a trophy half as tall as she is.

Of the 249 contestants ages 9 to 15 who kicked off the bee Wednesday morning, seventh-grader Jody-Anne stuck out from the beginning for the methodical way she queried the official pronouncer each turn at the microphone, showing almost no emotion.

``Dr. Cameron, please,″ she began each request for a word’s definition, its use in a sentence, its part of speech, if it had any other meanings, any other pronunciations, its language of origin.

Nearly every speller in the later rounds tried to wheedle clues out of pronouncer Alex J. Cameron, using the definitions, word origins and often just plain luck to eke out the right combination of letters.

Erin Strange, 13, of Albuquerque, N.M., took minutes trying to puzzle her way through ``dorcastry″ (a church auxiliary) in the fourth round before finally giving up and guessing the correct spelling, and shook her head smiling on the way back to her seat.

Minutes earlier, fellow eighth-grader Tasha Bartch, 12, whose father is with the U.S. military in Stuttgart, Germany, was confronted with a word she’d never heard of, ``chrismatory″ (a container for sacred oil), and pulled it out by deducing the answer from the Greek root, ``chrism,″ which means oil.

After spelling ``chiaroscurist,″ Jody-Anne held her breath, waiting for the bell that would signal a mistake. Instead she was named champion. She grinned and waved her arms.

To win, she eliminated Prem Murthy Trivedi, 12, an eighth-grader at Lakewood Preparatory School in Howell, N.J., who made his fourth and final appearance in the national bee. The contest is only open to eighth-graders and younger. As he did last year, Prem finished second. He was felled by ``prairillon,″ which means a small prairie or meadow.

The third-place finisher was Hirsh Sandesara, 13, an eighth-grader from Maple School in Northbrook, Ill. He was eliminated by ``maieutic,″ referring to a teaching method practiced by Socrates.

For such a fierce competition, the youngsters seem to take victory and defeat in stride.

Most contestants smiled, if ruefully, when they left the stage after misspelling a word, and the parent or escort who simultaneously got up from their seats in the auditorium often looked more upset than the failed speller.

As the competition wore on, many of the kids applauded each other spontaneously. Some of the boys traded high-fives after a particularly tough word, and many of the children laughed when given words they never knew existed.

When 9-year-old Allyson Lieberman returned to the competition at the end of the fourth round after judges changed their minds about her response, the other children clapped for her and clasped her arm in encouragement as she walked back up.

The contestants were sponsored by English-language newspapers in the United States, Guam, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Europe and American Samoa. Jody-Anne and other Jamaicans were sponsored by the Phillips & Phillips Stationery Supplies company.

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