Olivia Jacobs wins Island Spelling Bee; now for Washington
Olivia Jacobs buzzed to the top at the Vineyard's Regional Spelling Bee last Thursday, taking first place by correctly spelling "iguana." The 11-year-old is a sixth-grader at Tisbury School.
Sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Times, the Spelling Bee took place on March 18 and was hosted by Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in the Performing Arts Center.
Olivia and five other spellers from the five Island elementary schools and the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School were selected following competitions at their schools for students in grades four through eight.
Runners-up in the Spelling Bee, in order of finish, included Matthew Luce from the Charter School, Connor Downing from West Tisbury, Mary McCarthy from Chilmark, Charlotte Potter from Oak Bluffs, Anna Keenan of Edgartown. This year, there was no competitor from the home school community.
Out of 43 words in 11 rounds, the ones that knocked contestants out of the running included grotto, animosity, aria, sallow, and clapboard.
Olivia's parents, Wendy and Gil Jacobs, joined her after the competition. When asked what she did to prepare, Olivia told The Times, "I studied all the words on the Scripps site."
That's no small feat, considering there are 1,150 words on the online national Spelling Bee study site. In practicing the spelling of those words, and more, Olivia had an error rate of only 1.5 percent, her proud father noted.
Since winning Tisbury School's spelling bee, Ms. Jacobs said Olivia studied words for several hours a day for two weeks in preparation for the regional competition. The two of them even practiced while Ms. Jacobs fixed dinner, switching off on quizzing one another.
When not studying spelling words, Olivia runs her own business, walking and grooming dogs, and pet-sitting. She also is an accomplished pianist. Her sister Dana, age 15, attends the regional high school.
As the Island's winner, Olivia and a chaperone will enjoy a trip to Washington, D.C., where she will represent Martha's Vineyard at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 2-4.
The national competition, widely known as Bee Week, will host 293 spellers from across the country, each sponsored by a newspaper, which underwrites the cost of the speller's participation.
Olivia's parents said they both plan to go with her. Before moving to the Island almost 11 years ago, the Jacobs lived in Virginia in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. Mr. Jacobs said they still have many friends in that area who probably be eager to join them at the national Bee to cheer for Olivia if guests are allowed.
ESPN will broadcast the Bee Week competition on June 2-4. Results will be posted through the competition at spellingbee.com and twitter.com/scrippsbee.
Jean Holenko of the Oak Bluffs School was the Bee coordinator. Doug Cabral, editor of The Times, was the pronouncer. Judges were Nelson Sigelman, Times managing editor, and Times writer Janet Hefler.
Spelling bee coordinators at each school included Ms. Holenko, Oak Bluffs; Wendy Gray, the Charter School; Jackie Guzalak, Chilmark; Deborah Orazem, Edgartown; Skye Sonneborn, West Tisbury; and Janet Stiller, Tisbury. The Times also underwrote the costs associated with the school bees.
According to the national Bee website, the Louisville Courier-Journal started the competition in 1925 with nine contestants in a statewide bee to find the best-grade school spellers in Kentucky. The Courier-Journal then extended a challenge to other newspapers nationwide to choose their own champions to take part in a national bee in Washington, D.C.
Scripps took over sponsorship of the national Bee in 1941 and has held annual bees ever since, except during the war years of 1943-45.