Student answers clarion call to victory at Wake County Spelling Bee

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 15, 2014 

— Persistence paid off Saturday for Suzanna Murawski, who won on her third try to become the Wake County Spelling Bee champion.

Suzanna, 11, a sixth-grade student at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh, came out on top of a field of 95 spellers who won bees at their respective traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools and home schools. Suzanna, like many of the other spellers, was a repeat contestant, having represented Joyner Elementary School the prior two years.

“I’m really, really happy, and I’m surprised to be honest, because I didn’t expect this,” Suzanna said after the bee, which was at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center. “I really didn’t come here to win. I came here to do as well as I could.”

Suzanna will represent Wake in the Scripps National Spelling Bee that will be held in May in Washington, D.C. Other local students who have qualified for the national competition include Bettie Closs, a fifth-grade student from Little River Elementary School in Durham; Abigail Pittman, a sixth-grade student at Southside Christian School in Clayton; and Kellan All, a fifth-grade student at Angier Elementary School.

Suzanna is the first public school student to win Wake’s spelling bee since PAGE of Wake County, a group that advocates for academically gifted children and runs the competition, brought the event back in 2011. The past three winners have been private school students.

The Advanced Placement Academy, The News & Observer, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Wake County PTA Council sponsored the bee. Suzanna is the daughter of News & Observer business reporter John Murawski.

By the afternoon, the field had been reduced to 24 spellers. Using words that the spellers hadn’t studied, some students were knocked out on “doddering,” “ponderous” and “ministrations.”

Suzanna said the closest she came to being eliminated was when she was asked to spell “profiteer.”

“Profiteer was the hardest word I had to deal with today because I had never heard it before,” she said.

By Round 11, only three spellers were left. Audrey Porter, 12, a seventh-grade student at Salem Middle School in Apex, missed “velitation,” meaning a slight skirmish. Suzanna correctly spelled “anaconda,” which is a large snake.

The pressure fell on Vineet Bhardwaj, 13, a seventh-grade student at Davis Drive Middle School in Cary. But he missed “frescade,” which is a shady place.

The championship moment came when Suzanna got the word “clarion,” a medieval trumpet, leaving the other two finalists to share second place.

“I’m very happy I got second,” Vineet said. “I worked hard to get this far.”

Suzanna admits that luck played a part in the win as she knew clarion but wasn’t as sure about velitation and frescade.

There’s going to be a lot more studying ahead for Suzanna, who said she has been spending 40 minutes a day working on her spelling words. She’ll have to compete against about 200 spellers from the U.S. and several other nations. The final rounds will be broadcast on television.

Regardless of what happens at the nationals, no one can take away Suzanna’s victory.

“I’m proud of my achievement,” she said.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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