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Shelbina girl spells her way to national competition

Friday, March 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:29 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 13, 2009
From left, the top three finishers of the Regional Spelling Bee: first place, Elizabeth Platz of Columbia Home Educators; second place, Megan Moore of Southern Boone Middle School; and third place, Afsah Khan of Gentry Middle School.

COLUMBIA — T-E-T-R-A-Z-Z-I-N-I.

Ten letters spelled success — literally — for Elizabeth Platz of Shelbina at the Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday.

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Elizabeth, 12, a seventh-grader representing Columbia Home Educators, competed through 20 rounds and battled until the end with Megan Moore of Southern Boone Middle School and Afsah Khan of Gentry Middle School, who placed second and third, respectively.

The three girls created quite the drama on stage, with each misspelling their words during the championship round. When one would miss, the other two spellers were brought back to start the round again. The overtime continued for 14 rounds before Elizabeth nailed the winning word.

A good-spirited spell-off between 56 students whittled down the competitors and the words. Students on stage at the Christian Fellowship Church wrung their hands, stared at the ceiling and even wrote words on their arms with imaginary pens. The vocabulary was intense and even had the adults in the audience scratching their heads. Pochismo. Kabuki. Tromba. Tatami. Murmurs in the audience expressed disbelief. 

Spellers in the bee were allowed to ask for a word's pronunciation, language of origin and definition. At times, the definition brought a chuckle to the friends and family watching the bee.

"Is that English?" an audience member asked loudly.

Of course, not all words were so foreign to the ear. The first word of the night was "ballerina."

As students walked away from the mic, sighs of relief (or disappointment) were heard as some shrugged their shoulders or flashed a grin at the crowd. The parents were almost as emotive as the students and celebrated their children's performances.

The Platz family planned to head to IHOP to celebrate Elizabeth's win. This wasn't her first victory, however. With this win, Elizabeth added a fourth trophy to her spelling bee collection. Her mom, Kathy Platz, said they call it her "disco line of trophies," as the gold bee on each trophy points up in a disco fashion.

Elizabeth will disco her way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 26 to 28.  Her parents said she has been dreaming of and working toward this goal since fourth grade.

"I know the book backwards and forwards," Elizabeth said. 

According to the Scripps National Spelling Bee Web site, the competition began in 1925 in Louisville, Ky. Since then, 84 students have been named a national Spelling Bee Champion.

Elizabeth hopes to be number 85.


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