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Four-Time Contender Wins Spelling Bee

May 30, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Wendy Guey of West Palm Beach, Fla., a four-time contender, won the 69th National Spelling Bee and the $5,000 first prize Thursday by spelling ``vivisepulture″ correctly. She defeated Nikki Dowdy of Houston, who missed ``cervicorn.″

It was an all-girl final when the elimination got down to three spellers.

``I really wanted to win and I prayed a lot,″ said Wendy. ``I was just really lucky that I got all the words I knew.″

What will she do with her prize money?

``Spend it,″ Wendy said.

Her winning word means burying alive.

Wendy is 12 years old and a seventh-grader at the Palm Beach County School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. She was sent as a contestant by The Palm Beach Post.

She was in the top 10 finishers in 1993 and 1994, and her older sister, Emily, also took part in the 1995 finals. Her mother, Susan, is a teacher, her father, Ching, an engineer.

The victory came in the 13th round of the two-day competition, which began with 247 contestants.

Nikki, who wins $4,000, is 13 and in the eighth-grade of Friendswood, Texas, Junior High School. She was sponsored by the Houston Chronicle. The word she missed, ``cervicorn,″ is an adjective meaning branching like antlers.

The third finalist, Katie Ward of Albany, N.Y., was eliminated in round 10 when she spelled ``sidereal″ as ``cidereal.″ The word means related to the stars.

After receiving her trophy, Wendy said that the toughest word she had to spell was ``lacertilian″ one of two words she missed. She spelled it ``lacertillian.″ It means relating to a lizard.

Under contest rules, all spellers in the round miss their word, all get another round. Nikki misspelled ``monostich″ (a single verse) as ``monestic″ and Kastie had ``hyporism″ for ``hypocorism″ (to call by endearing names).

Again in the 11th round, both girls misspelled their words and came back for a 12th. That’s when Nikki missed and Wendy progressed to win.

She said she would like to be a journalist or news anchor. Asked by a Scripps Howard official if she reads the newspaper, she replied: ``The comics.″

Wendy said that she did not study the dictionary for the Bee but that she occasionally flipped through its pages.

In the fourth round, spellers dropped out rapidly as the words got tougher. For the final, televised, round of the Scripps Howard newspapers’ competition, 35 of the original 247 spellers remained.

Each loser was applauded by fellow contestants and the audience. Whenever a child got the word right, after struggling with it, the audience let out a grateful sigh.

One of the most watched spellers, 11-year-old Jimmy McCarthy of Land O’Lakes, Fla., was an early casualty of the final day.

Jimmy is profoundly deaf _ able to detect some sound, but not much, by wearing two hearing aids. He watched the word-announcer closely and had the help of a signer. But he spelled ``ululant″ _ a word that means howling or wailing _ as ``undulant.″

The ballroom, mostly filled with parents and defeated spellers, gave him a round of sustained applause.

``After he spelled even one word correctly, that was good enough for me,″ said his father, Dennis McCarthy. ``He made it _ that’s enough.″

Jimmy was visibly nervous. His dad said the boy awoke at 3 a.m. from a nightmare, dreaming he was caught in the fantasy movie ``Jumanji,″ in which children get trapped in a magical board game.

``I feel very happy because I made it this far,″ Jimmy said before the finals. He remained in the ``Comfort Room″ for defeated spellers for a half hour, then avoided reporters ``to have some fun now.″

His mother said Jimmy said wants to try again next year.

The children lost most often by getting just one letter wrong.

Sarah Virginia Sawyer of Birmingham, Ala., started the losing streak by spelling ``tetramerous″ (something with four parts) as ``tatramerous.″ The next contestant, Justin Kinkel-Schuster of Little Rock, Ark., had ``amaryllis″ (a plant) as ``ameryllis.″

Alicia Juskewycz, a 14-year-old from Fairfield, Iowa, who had spent time between sessions playing classical music on the piano outside the contest hall, lost out on ``beethovenian″ by ending the word in ``ean.″ It means in the style of Beethoven.

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