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Conceited wins Speller a ticket to Washington DC

Conceited ‘ wins Speller a ticket to Washington DC

Pictures from the final available at Photos by Mike Clare
After many gruelling rounds of intensive spelling, Belinda Gibbon, from Wellington Girls’ College, reigned victorious at the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee today.

14 finalists from around the country showed off their prowess, spelling words such as pueblo, diorama, and liverwurst.

At round 6, when the other 11 contestants had been knocked out of the competition, Belinda faced off against Joshua Whitney from James Hargest College, Invercargill, and Cathryn Obnial from Carmel College in Auckland.
It was a tough fight but in the end Belinda correctly spelled ‘conceited.’ She looked thrilled and relieved and there were whoops of delight and cheers from family and friends in the audience.

She will now spend the next three months studying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington DC in June, where a win could earn her more than US$40,000 and other prizes.

Second place went to Cathryn Obnial after correctly spelling the word ‘precipice’ and third place went to Joshua Whitney when he tripped over ‘reticence’.

Belinda is the first female winner after three years of boys winning the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee title.

Belinda, who came from South Africa six and a half years ago, wore a Bee necklace, given to her by a friend as her nickname is Bee.

Janet Lucas, Event Organiser, says "It was a really tough competition and I think Belinda is going to be a great representative for New Zealand when she competes at the 84th Scripps National Spelling Competition in Washington DC at the start of June."

Winner Belinda says “ I was very, very nervous on stage and now it hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ve won.”

She is thrilled about the prospect of representing New Zealand at the US Final.

Belinda’s preparation for the US Spelling Bee will include studying the Scripps National Spelling Bee word list, and reading Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a 5kg monster with 470,000 words. She will also try to master the differences in American - English spelling.

The winner of the 2011 final is this country’s seventh representative at the US Spelling Bee, the world’s longest running academic competition and held more times than the Academy Awards. In America it attracts more than nine million competitors hopeful of winning a place in the championship final.


Event Manager Janet Lucas says it is a great honour that New Zealand is able to participate in this competition.

“The event is just huge in the States. With so many millions of American kids dying to get a chance to go to the Scripps Spelling Bee, we are lucky to be able to send a Kiwi representative.”

The spellers work through a series of rounds, with each speller given one word per round. If they spell it correctly, they progress to the next round. With an incorrect spelling, a bell is rung, signaling they are out of the competition.

The NZ Vegemite Spelling Bee 2011 is open to Year 8 students. Their school must register with Scripps National Spelling Bee in August to ensure the spellers can participate in the event.

Dr Dianne Bardsley, main judge at the event and Lexicographer and Director at the New Zealand Dictionary Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, says the Spelling Bee creates excellent standards for NZ children.

“The Spelling Bees provides significant opportunities for students to not only compete in an area of expertise and focus on 'getting it right', but also to increase their understanding of words, as well as histories, meanings and uses.”
Kraft Corporate Affairs Manager, Aimee Driscoll, says the company, in its fifth year of sponsorship, is highly supportive of the Bee because of the educational benefits it gives young New Zealanders.

“Spelling and reading help develop language proficiency. A student is more likely to recognise, spell and use a word in speech or writing if they are familiar and comfortable with it.”

Other sponsors of the event are The New Zealand Listener, ZM and Franklin Electronic Publishers, while event supporters are Oxford University Press, and the New Zealand Dictionary Centre.

The competition’s pronouncer is Hamish McDouall, a lawyer and councilor at Wanganui District Council. Hamish has held the position of Pronouncer since the event started in 2005.

The New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee is administered by a charitable trust. Its’ purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage.

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