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Pictured above are the top four finishers in Wednesday night's spelling bee. From left are first-place winner Lola Riffle, second-place winner Talon Lantz, third-place winner Thomas Loudin and fourth-place winner and alternate L Raschella. (Photos by Katie Kuba)

No problems with ‘thyroid’ for Upshur County Spelling Bee winner

TENNERTON – The winner of the Upshur County Spelling Bee was abuzz with nervous energy when she misspelled her word in the second round of Wednesday night’s word contest.

Fortunately for Lola Riffle, a sixth-grader at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, everyone else who had advanced to Round 2 misspelled their words, too. That turn of events resulted in pronouncer Daya Wright declaring that everyone who had advanced to the second round would have a second chance in what she dubbed Round 3.

After five rounds, Riffle ultimately won the bee – which took place in the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium at 6 p.m. Jan. 17 – by correctly spelling ‘thyroid,’ defined as a “large endocrine gland that lies in the base of the neck and produces an iodine-containing hormone having a profound influence on growth and development and specifically stimulating the metabolic rate.”

The second to last contest standing in Round 5, Talon Lantz, a fourth-grader from Buckhannon Christian Academy, misspelled the word, ‘moira’ – a Greek noun meaning “individual destiny, the will of the gods or fate.”

That made Riffle the first-place winner and Talon the second-place winner. Lola, Talon, and third-place winner Thomas Loudin, a fourth-grader at Tennerton Elementary School, will automatically advance to the Regional Bee on March 9 in Fairmont. L Raschella, a sixth-grader at Buckhannon Christian Academy, is the alternate for that bee should any of the top 3 be unable to participate.

Lola was relieved, she told My Buckhannon after the bee had concluded. When asked if she was worried that her chance to advance to the regional bee in March was gone when she – like all the other kids remaining in Round 2 — had misspelled her word in Round 2, she answered with an emphatic yes.

“I mean, if you could see me shaking, you could tell I was worried,” Lola said.

Lola said she’d put a lot of time and energy into studying the list of words.

“I practiced a whole bunch with my Aunt Tracey,” she said. “We literally brought the list of words with us to practice right before.”

In the end, Lola said she was “very happy” she had snagged the victory and encouraged her fellow spellers to keep practicing.

Upshur County Schools Curriculum Director Tristen Gray and Kayla Kelly, coordinator of ELA competitions, organized the bee. Although the bee started with more mainstream, everyday words like bronze, antlers, furniture and confident, it quickly moved on to less familiar words like boba, propitious, insolent, photosynthesis, altimeter, voracious and incandescent.

Wright served as the pronouncer, while Upshur County Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples, Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur representative Dr. James Moore, community member Amanda Hayes and My Buckhannon editor Katie Kuba were judges for the bee.

The 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place the week of Memorial Day 2024 at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, according to its website.

These 19 participants braved frigid temperatures for a shot at making it to the Regional Spelling Bee in Fairmont on Saturday, March 9.

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