SOUTH BEND -- The word was “provolone.”
Alexa Snyder walked up to the microphone, put her hand on her jeans pocket over her lucky charm -- a Justin Bieber dog tag -- and rattled off “p-r-o-v-o-l-o-n-e” as if the word was sitting in front of her eyes.
“That is correct,” said announcer Gary Sieber.
And with that, the 11-year-old Jefferson Intermediate fifth-grader was crowned champion of the 16th annual Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by the South Bend Tribune.
“That’s a pretty smart granddaughter I got,” said Alexa’s grandfather, Tom Umbaugh, as Alexa claimed her first-place trophy and a $2,500 scholarship courtesy of Bethel College Wednesday night.
Greene Intermediate sixth-grader Tyler Ankrom took home the runner-up prize -- a $1,500 scholarship from Bethel College.
Deirdre Cawley, an eighth-grade student at Christ the King, garnered third place and a $750 scholarship after stumbling on the word “Cossack.”
Next up for Alexa -- a trip to Washington, D.C., at the end of May to compete against nearly 300 other kids from around the country at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
So far, those preparatory notecards with spelling words that mom Angie Snyder pasted on the vanity in the Snyders’ home are paying off.
Not that Alexa needs notecards.
“She just has an uncanny gift for spelling,” Angie Snyder said as dad Jason Snyder and little sister Ellie beamed with pride. “She’s an amazing child.”
“She’ll catch my spelling mistakes,” adds Alexa’s fifth-grade teacher, Julia Young.
Then there’s the Justin Bieber dog tag. Alexa reached into her pocket and pulled out the round tag to show off a picture of her favorite singer.
“That’s my good luck charm,: Alexa said with a smile.
The other 23 participants could have used a bit of luck -- or at least somebody should have asked Blake Buck how he spelled his name.
But after the 13-year-old John Young Middle School eighth-grader got crossed up on the word “semantics,” Blake was thinking more about what went wrong when he heard the word from the announcer’s mouth than the name tag on his chest that read “Black Buck,” a misspelling that also appeared in the spelling bee’s program.
“I was thinking that I wasn’t sure (about the correct spelling of “semantics”),” Blake said, walking out of the Century Center’s Bendix Theater after he was eliminated.
“I just thought I’d give it a go.”
Tears formed in Blake’s eyes, but his voice wasn’t choked up a bit.
“I’m not crying,” he said. “It’s just hot in there.”