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Victoria Zisi takes her time spelling a word during the sixth annual Free Lance-Star Regional Spelling Bee last year
By CATHY DYSON
Four students who have been under the glare of the regional spelling-bee spotlight before have learned from the experience--and have some advice for newcomers.
"There's nothing to be nervous about, the audience isn't going to bite you," said Victoria Zisi, a 13-year-old home-schooler. "Just focus on one word at a time."
Duncan Paterson, 12, of Dahlgren School, offered the same words of wisdom as Drew Marino, 12, of Warrenton Middle School.
Pay attention to how words are spelled in different languages, Duncan said, and ask questions if you're not sure about the origin, Drew added.
A final tip came from Ian Dow, 12, of Fredericksburg Christian Schools.
"I would say not to worry about it," Ian said. "Just think it through."
Ian, a seventh-grader, admits he should take his own advice. He tends to over-think everything, he said, so having been at the bee before--in 2010--helps him know what to expect.
The four repeat spellers are among 21 students who will try to spell words that most members of the audience can't pronounce at Saturday's seventh annual Free Lance-Star Regional Spelling Bee.
Sierra Giles of Grymes Memorial School in Orange County also is a repeat winner, but she can't compete Saturday because she's out of the country.
The competition begins at 9:30 a.m. at Theater12/Splitsville at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. It's free and open to the public.
The field of spellers and the number of schools they represent are the largest in the bee's history, said coordinator Janet Gibson.
For the first time, The Free Lance-Star invited divisions with 10 or more schools registered with the Scripps National Spelling Bee to send two representatives.
Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fauquier counties are sending winners and runners-up.
The 21 spellers in grades four through eight won contests in their classes, grades and divisions to make it to the regional bee. Altogether, they represent 87 schools and about 30,300 students.
That's why Victoria, a seventh-grader, believes the bee offers a great experience for every participant--even though only one gets to advance to the national bee in Washington May 28 through June 1.
She hopes newcomers won't be scared by the stage lights.
"Yes, they're pretty bright, and sometimes they get in your eyes," she said, "but you get used to them after a while."
Drew, a seventh-grader who is participating in his third regional bee, has learned a different way of coping.
"I know now not to look at the crowd," he said, adding that he's just as nervous this year as the first time.
He and Duncan, an eighth-grader, both realized they needed to study more after previous appearances.
Duncan said he just flipped through the "Spell It" book provided by Scripps in 2010--and still placed fifth.
He studied the entries, word by word, to prepare for the 2012 bee.
Ian also said he probably doesn't study enough, but he seems a little modest.
He writes the words on note cards and studies them on his long bus ride from Stafford County to Fredericksburg Christian Schools near Massaponax.
He types them on the computer and turns them into PowerPoint presentations. His parents also call out the words to him and he studies before he goes to bed, which "really solidifies the word in my head."
"Just being around words is one of my favorite things," he said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Carolyn Lindsey of Fredericksburg Christian was 11 when she won the first Free Lance-Star Regional Spelling Bee in 2006. She also won in 2007. Two years later, Fredericksburg Christian was on the podium again as
Home-schooled students have won twice: Maria Wasilewski, 12, in 2008, and Matthew Zisi, 13, in 2010.
Last year was the first time a public-school student claimed the title. Ethan Ruggeri, 8, of Locust Grove Elementary School also was the youngest winner in the contest's history.