Spelling champ has strategy for winning bees

Published 10:50 pm Monday, February 8, 2010

Austin Deavers studies in the car on his way to and from Meadowview Christian School each day, and all that studying has paid off so far.

Deavers won first place for eighth grade in the AISA State Spelling Bee on Feb. 2, now qualifying him for the Alabama Spelling Bee at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham on March 6.

“I study whenever I can get time,” Deavers said. “Spelling is one of my favorite subjects. It’s just fun learning those big words.”

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Deavers has competed in spelling bees since the fourth grade.

He won on Feb. 2 with the word bobbejaan, which is a type of baboon.

“I had a smile on my face,” Deavers said. “I was too excited. I knew I had it.”

This is the fifth time he has won the fifth district competition.

Spelling bees are more than just memorization of words. There is strategy, too. Deavers usually follows his strategy for each word, but didn’t wait a moment to spell his winning word.

“The one I got least nervous about was the last one because I knew I had them,” Deavers said.

His strategy is to study daily, ask for a definition of the word, for it to be used in a sentence, the language of origin and alternate pronunciations.

“It gives you a few minutes to breathe,” said Rexene Redd, spelling bee sponsor. “Also, things aren’t spelled out like they sound and if you know the word origin, it can help you figure it out.”

The words start off at grade level, called novice, and work up to slightly above grade level, called intermediate, and to beyond grade level, called advanced. Each level lasts for five rounds.

For eighth grade, novice words are brigadier and quarantine, intermediate words are quiche and eulogy, and advanced words are Buddha and caballero.

“They went 25 rounds of advanced words before Lyric missed a word and Austin spelled his correctly,” Redd said.

Lyric Peete, of Cornerstone Christian School in Columbiana, Ala., came in second place for the Feb. 2 bee.

“He is an avid speller,” Redd said of Deavers. “He is so incredibly gifted at it. I’m not just proud of him because he wins. I love his spirit.”

Intermittent with spelling bee preparations, Deavers will also compete in the math competition on March 5, Technology Fair on March 17 and Scholars Bowl on the junior varsity team on March 30.

For extra preparation before the March bee, Deavers has also been given permission to study with Redd during his physical education class time.

If Deavers wins the state competition in March, he will qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May.