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Staff photos by DARWIN WEIGELMill Creek Middle School student Jason Mayer thinks about the next letter while spelling ‘‘apparatus” in the sixth round Wednesday of the Calvert County Spelling Bee at Calvert High School. Mayer spelled the word wrong but all the others missed their words also, keeping him in the running. He went on to win the bee with classmate Stephen Balinski taking the runner-up slot.
Wednesday night, 50 of the top spellers from eight public and private middle schools throughout the county participated in the Calvert County Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Calvert Recorder, the College of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Chaney Enterprises.
Students showed off their spelling skills as Victoria Clements of the College of Southern Maryland provided contestants with the selected words and pronunciations.
Zachary Johnson of Plum Point Middle School sighed before saying ‘‘Oh no,” when Clements presented him with the word ‘‘chimichanga” late in the competition. Correctly spelling the word brought a sigh of relief to Johnson.
Legs were shaking nervously on stage as contestants were eliminated round after round while words and their pronunciations became increasingly difficult.
Five students remained after five rounds of grueling spelling words originating in Greek, Spanish, Italian, Latin, French and other languages. None of the five students correctly spelled a word in round six and a trip to the rule book by coordinator Kelly Griffith stated all five students re-enter for another round.
With a second chance, Mayer and eighth-grade classmate Stephen Balinski, 14, out-spelled the other contestants and were the final two for the last round, where Mayer took the win.
‘‘It was slightly comforting,” Mayer said of being in the final two with a fellow Mill Creek student.
Mayer said he was surprised to get so far in the competition because he doesn’t read as much as some of his classmates like runner-up Balinski.
‘‘This kid’s been reading since he was 2 years old,” his mother Dawn Balinski said.
Mayer was relaxed and aside from a large grin was seemingly unphased at the idea of having just out-spelled 49 of the area’s top spellers.
Mayer didn’t need to show enthusiasm as his younger brother Jacob was jumping up and down with excitement for his big brother.
‘‘I’m very very very happy,” Jacob said.
Jacob had been following along with the announcer throughout the competition and writing down the spellings of each word as the competition went on.
Jacob said he wants to be like his brother and win the bee.
Mayer, like the typical teenager, was already thinking of other things after his victory.
‘‘I’m going to go home and play video games,” he said.
Mayer’s parents were pleased by the victory.
‘‘We knew he could spell,” said Mayer’s mother Jana.
‘‘These two are always competing,” Mayer’s father Roland said of Mayer and Balinski.
Spelling bee coach for both contestants, Susan Knott, agreed with Mayer’s father and said the two boys have been engaged in friendly competition for several years.
Knott said the two boys have great personalities and it showed in the competition.
‘‘I am just so proud of them,” Knott said.
Mayer will advance to the 81st annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., from May 26 to June 1.
The final rounds of the national bee will be shown live on ABC — WJLA Channel 7 in Washington, D.C., and WMAR Channel 2 in Baltimore.
Mayer received Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and its Addenda Section, along with the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award — a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.
Also, Mayer received a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Brittanica Online.
Balinski received a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, along with an Amazon.com gift certificate and a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Brittanica Online for placing second in the competition.
All of the spellers received gifts from The Calvert Recorder and College of Southern Maryland, with help from Educate & Celebrate in Prince Frederick.