Isabella Neubauer made a speller’s version of a hat trick, needing only 10 rounds to win The Sun News Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday night at Myrtle Beach High School for the third straight year.
Neubauer, representing Lowcountry Preparatory Middle School, spelled “prevaricate” correctly to win the 25th annual Bee and said it was “pretty cool” to retain her title. Not only did she outspell 45 other elementary, middle and intermediate students from Horry and Georgetown counties, but she also went up against her sister, Ryleigh Neubauer, who was representing Lowcountry Preparatory Lower School.
In the Bee for the first time, Ryleigh made it to the sixth round, which Isabella said didn’t surprise her. Their father, Scott Neubauer, said he was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, while mother Michelle Neubauer said, “We’re just so proud of both of them.”
Isabella’s win means she’ll be returning to the Washington, D.C., area to represent the Grand Strand at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held from May 26 through June 1. She and a chaperone will have all expenses paid by The Sun News and The Sun News Educational Foundation.
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In addition to the Washington trip, Isabella also won Webster’s 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.
First runner-up went to Jaan Nandwani of St. Michael Catholic School. She and David Habibi of Myrtle Beach Middle School, a past Bee champion, were in a tie for the runner-up spot and had to battle for five rounds until Jaan was victorious. Jaan received a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, passes to local attractions and a trophy from The Sun News.
In honor of the bee’s 25th year, all schools were entered in a random drawing for $250, which was won by St. Michael Catholic School, and each speller received a Bee T-shirt. All contestants also received a trophy recognizing them as champions of their local school spelling bees, along with prizes and passes to local attractions.
All of the night’s officials have worked with the Bee before, and some have been with the program for many years, such as pronouncer Doug Smith, an associate professor of education at Coastal Carolina University, who is in his 13th year with the Bee.
Other officials included head judge Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of English at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, with the Bee for the second year; second judge Tom Jones of the Grand Strand Optimist Club, 16 years; third judge Claire Adare, a former teacher, fourth year; and alternate judge Brian Scott of the North Strand Optimist Club, 11th year.
At the practice session before the Bee began, Smith led the spellers through the process, telling them that an incorrect answer would result in a bell, but reassured them that it was not the end of the world.
“Except for one person, everyone’s night will end with a bell,” Smith told the students. “It’s not a bad thing. You already won to get here.”