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Sat, April 20

Abia Judd spelling bee winner bests the county, readies for state

After 19 rounds pitted against 50 other students, Abia Judd fifth grader Rachel Feingold, 11, was the last speller standing on Wednesday at the Yavapai County Spelling Bee in Sedona.<br>
TribPhoto/Heidi Dahms Foster

After 19 rounds pitted against 50 other students, Abia Judd fifth grader Rachel Feingold, 11, was the last speller standing on Wednesday at the Yavapai County Spelling Bee in Sedona.<br> TribPhoto/Heidi Dahms Foster

SEDONA - Abia Judd fifth grader Rachel Feingold, 11, ignored her quaking body and spelled her way through 19 rounds Wednesday to win the 2011 Yavapai County Spelling Bee at Sedona Red Rock High School.

"I was shaking all over!" Feingold said after she out-spelled 50 other students on her way to the victory. "I tried to stop but I couldn't."

She became more focused as the contest reached the final rounds, bounding up to the mic with enthusiasm to spell each word. When only five contestants remained, Feingold said she began to think she could win.

"I practiced, and I really, really wanted it," she said.

Though it was Feingold's first time to compete in the county contest, she did place fourth in her school contest two years ago, but lost out last year on the word "saxophone," which she can now spell with ease.

Though she will undoubtedly continue to practice for the upcoming Arizona Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 26, in Tempe, Feingold said she "might go shopping" after her win on Wednesday.

The words came right out of the national Scripps Spelling Bee list, and some tough ones stumped spellers right away. Words such as "oceanography," "begonia," "hibachi," "oolong," "diorama," "competency," and "whininess" were some that downed 26 of the 51 spellers in just the first round. Feingold correctly spelled "igneous" to advance.

Among others, "anchovy," "ductal," "pinafore," and "feldspar" eliminated 12 more spellers in Round 2, with Feingold advancing on "gristle."

Only two spellers missed their words in Round 3, and Feingold showed her abilities on "expertise." As the contest went on, eliminating a few spellers each round, Feingold spelled her way through "geoponics," "castanets," "macadamia," and "purga."

Finally, in Round 8, she stumbled on "schnauzer." But all five of the remaining spellers also missed their words, and all moved on to the next round.

In Round 9, Feingold correctly spelled "pitchblende" and was guaranteed at least third place, with Ezekiel Pogue, a Prescott Mile High Middle School eighth-grader, and Connor Derby, a Sedona Charter School sixth-grader, challenging her for the top prize. Phillip Geeson, a Camp Verde Middle School eighth-grader, and Shayle Medrano, a Mountain View Elementary sixth-grader from Prescott Valley, went five rounds in a runoff for fourth place, with Medrano grabbing the final award spot by correctly spelling "triumvirate," and "tariff."

Feingold, Pogue and Derby spelled their way through three more rounds until Pogue misspelled "erudite." In Round 18, Feingold correctly spelled "cilantro," and Derby went down on "susceptible."

Then Feingold had only to correctly spell one more word for the championship, and she quickly aced "impetuous." Derby took home runner-up honors and Pogue was third.

Top sponsors M&I Bank awarded savings bonds and plaques to each of the top four winners. The Arizona Sundogs gave them "kid stick" hockey sticks, and honored Feingold with a pair of game passes. A number of other sponsors gave food coupons and other items to go in goodie bags for all 51 contestants, of whom County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter said, "They are all champions." He reminded the audience that each speller had won the bee at their home school to advance to Wednesday's bee, the county's 65th contest.

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