Jamiyah Jackson will have an angel on her shoulder when she takes the stage Tuesday night at the 25th annual The Sun News Regional Spelling Bee.
The 9-year-old lost her grandmother in a car accident last November but said she practiced her spelling words to keep from dwelling on her loss. Just two months later, Jamiyah won the spelling championship for Georgetown County’s Kensington Elementary School and now is poised to compete at the next level.
Jamiyah is just one of the 46 elementary, middle and intermediate students from Horry and Georgetown counties who will participate in the regional competition. The event will be held at the Myrtle Beach High School Music and Arts Center, 3302 Robert Grissom Parkway, with practice spelling at 5:50 p.m. and the competition at 6:30 p.m. The bee also will be streamed live at www.myrtlebeachonline.com.
The spellers will be vying for the chance to represent the Grand Strand at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip for themselves and a chaperone to the event, which will be held in the Washington, D.C., area from May 26 through June 1.
“She was so excited when she won [the school bee],” said Beth Gregory, Jamiyah’s teacher, who said Jamiyah’s grandmother was always at the school supporting her in whatever she was involved. “She is great in academics and with other kids – they love her – and at this age, that’s a compliment.”
Gregory said Jamiyah and a friend get to school early and run words before class begins. Jamiyah said she also gets help at home studying with her aunt.
“I think I’m going to kind of be nervous,” she said of the bee, where her aunt, mother, brother and teachers will be cheering her on. She said she already knows her achievement would have made her grandmother happy and proud.
Competition will be stiff this year, not only with talented newcomers, but with the return of former champions Isabella Neubauer of Lowcountry Preparatory Middle School and David Habibi of Myrtle Beach Middle School. The two ended last year’s bee by going head-to-head for 13 rounds, with Neubauer grabbing her second win in a row.
She and Habibi, the 2010 winner, will not only face each other again, but they also will face their siblings, who are spelling in the bee for the first time. Ryleigh Neubauer will represent Lowcountry Preparatory Lower School, and Eli Habibi will represent Chabad Academy.
This will be the fourth spelling bee for Isabella, who said even though she’s already won, she’s studying more now than before, because she can get really nervous even with an easy word like “cauliflower.” She said she and Ryleigh have been studying separately with their father and she still feels it’s important to win again, but it will be fun having her sister in the competition.
“I think she’s really nervous, but I’ll try and help her when we get there,” Isabella said. “I’ll try and tell her something, although Mom has probably said it all already.”
Despite the outcome, no one leaves the bee a loser, as there always is a prize for everyone. In honor of the bee’s 25th year, each speller will receive a spelling bee T-shirt, and all schools will be entered into a random drawing for $250. All contestants will receive a trophy recognizing them as champions of their local school spelling bees, along with prizes and passes to local attractions.
The champion’s prizes will include 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. The first runner-up will receive a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, passes to local attractions and a trophy from The Sun News.
This year’s champions (c) and alternates (a) of local, participating schools are:
Burgess Elementary: Hudson Hok (c), Bryce Holseberg (a)
Conway Middle: Shane Mooney (c), Sha’Keemia Bellamy (a)
Loris Middle: Isabella Davis (c), Julia Badillo (a)
North Myrtle Beach Intermediate: Savannah Lewis (c), Hayden Best (a)
South Conway Elementary: Lyania Hunt (c), Jada Harrison (a)