Isabella Neubauer was the only speller left standing after nine rounds and spelled a final word to take her fourth consecutive win in the 26th annual The Sun News Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday night.
It took three more rounds for Chetna Patel of Lowcountry Preparatory Middle School to take the runner-up spot in the competition, which was held for the 16th year at the Myrtle Beach High School Music and Arts Center.
Neubauer, a student at the Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences, advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where last year she was one of only 20 spellers to have repeated as champion three consecutive years. This is the last year the champion will be able to compete in the regional Bee.
Six spellers, including Neubauer, survived rounds seven and eight, when the more difficult words were unveiled for round nine. After Neubauer secured the win, the other five spellers were brought back to determine the runner-up, and Patel ended the Bee after three hours.
This is the first time since Ive been pronouncing for this Bee I believe thats 14 years that weve ever had to go into the second set of words, said pronouncer Doug Smith, starting word number 436, before everyone but Neubauer was knocked out of the round.
Neubauer and Patel were two of 52 elementary, intermediate and middle school students from Horry and Georgetown counties who participated in this years regional Bee.
The national Bee will be held May 25-31 in the Washington, D.C., area. All food and lodging expenses will be paid for Neubauer and a chaperone by The Sun News and The Sun News Educational Foundation.
In addition to the Washington trip, Neubauer also won Websters Third New International Dictionary, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a one-year subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Premium, passes to local attractions and a trophy from The Sun News.
Patel received Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, passes to local attractions and a trophy from The Sun News. All contestants received a trophy recognizing them as champions of their local school spelling bees, along with prizes and passes to local attractions.
Smith, an associate professor of education at Coastal Carolina University, was one of several returning Bee officials, including head judge Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of English at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, who has been with the event for three years; second judge Tom Jones of the Grand Strand Optimist Club, 17 years; third judge Claire Adare, a former teacher, five years; and alternate judge Brian Scott of the North Strand Optimist Club, 12 years.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.