Darren Baker hopes to replicate his success in the 22nd annual Deseret News Spelling Bee at the national contest in May.
Baker, an eighth-grader at Midvale Middle School, worked his way through 14 rounds of words, outlasting 43 other competitors Friday to win the state crown by correctly spelling "replicate."His next stop is the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 25-30, where he will vie for $30,000 in prizes.
For winning the state title, Baker receives an all-expenses-paid trip to the national bee, courtesy of the Deseret News.
"It feels great," said Baker grinning ear-to-ear at the conclusion of the three-hour contest. "I can't wait to go to Washington."
Then again, a two-month respite might do him some good. He plans to study every page of the Merriam-Webster Third New International Dictionary, awarded to him as part of the first-place prize package. He also received a trophy.
Baker said when he entered his school-level bee, he didn't take it too seriously.
As he progressed through the classroom, school and district contests, his preparation became more rigorous.
To prepare for the Friday's competition, Baker reviewed "3,200 words at least twice," his mother, Linda Baker, said.
"We've worked pretty hard every day the last 2 1/2 weeks or so," Darren Baker, the son of Linda and Roger Baker and the eldest of five children.
Baker demonstrated his spelling prowess early, winning his elementary school spelling bees in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. His parents petitioned the Jordan School District, asking if he could enter the junior high school contest while he was still in elementary school. District officials declined.
Baker seemed to handle the pressure like a pro, explaining the spelling bee was one of five statewide contests he was competing in this spring.
"It really sends his mother into a tizzy. I can't handle it," she said.
Spelling aside, the contest usually boils down to the luck of the draw on selected words and the ability to perform under pressure.
It also is a test of sportsmanship for children and their parents. Some handle losing gracefully; others do not.
Liz and David Sharp of Vernal celebrated their 12-year-old son's showing in the contest with some gentle ribbing and a pat on the back. Aaron Sharp was eliminated in one of the later rounds of the bee.
"They picked the only word you didn't know," Liz Sharp said.
Three of the last five years, Sharp children have represented the Uintah School District in the state spelling bee.
"It must run in families. In other years, the children who have represented our district have come from the same five or six families," Liz Sharp said.
Sharp said her children have enjoyed the statewide competition.
"This is great. This is one of the best things our kids have ever done."
While it was a rigorous test for spellers, no one endured as much inspection as announcer Doug Fabrizio of KUER FM-90.
"I've come to the conclusion I'm the most hated person in the auditorium," he said, half-joking. "I have people on occasion call the radio station and tell me I've used incorrect grammar. When you do stuff like this, you are never so scrutinized."
Second-place winner, Sarah Drabik of the private Challenger Middle School, received $200 in cash, a trophy and a Crompton Interactive Encyclopedia on CD-ROM. Drabik, 13, stumbled on the word "parfait."
Third-place winner was a fifth grader from West Elementary School in the Washington School District. Justin Reber, 10, received a trophy, $100 and a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
Another 10-year-old, Mageda Korewa of Salt Lake City School District's Lowell Elementary School, placed fourth. She received $75 cash.
Fifth-place winner, Katie Van Ausdal, received $50 in cash. The Centerville Junior High student represented the Davis School District.
The state contest, held at Salt Lake Community College South Campus, included district-level winners from public, private, parochial and home schools throughout the state.
Competitors ranging in age from 9 to 14 represented schools from Box Elder to Washington counties.
Tough words test spellers' mettle
The following are a sampling of words put forth to competitors in the 22nd annual Deseret News Spelling Bee held Friday at Salt Lake Community College South Campus.
- Pinniped - Any of a suborder of aquatic carnivorous mammals such as a seal or walrus with all four limbs modified into flippers.
- Gerenuk - A long-necked antelope native to eastern Africa.
- Bilious - Appearing as though affected by a liver disorder.
- Obelisk - An upright four-sided monolithic pillar that tapers as it rises and terminates in a pyramid.
- Palaver - Profuse, idle or worthless talk; chatter.
- Authoritarianism - a political system that concentrates power in the hands of a leader or a small autocratic elite.
- Urbiculture - The practices and problems peculiar to cities.
- Anthography - The description of flowers.
- Trunnioned - Having a pin or pivot usually mounted on bearings for rotating or tilting.
- Chilblains - Instances of redness and swelling of toes, fingers, nose or ears or sometimes cheeks in cold weather, accompanied by itching and burning skin.