In the 11th round of the Duke University Regional Spelling Bee, Hanna Closs was the only speller left standing.
Closs had to correctly spell the final championship word, “ornithofauna,” to win the entire competition.
“Can I have the definition?” 12-year-old Closs asked. “The birds of a region or habitat,” the pronouncer responded.
“Can I have the part of speech?” Closs asked. “This word is from a Greek part and a Latin part,” the pronouncer answered.
Closs paused, then silently spelled the word while drawing it on her palm. Then, she spelled aloud, “O-r-n-i-t-h-o-f-a-u-n-a.”
The audience applauded as Closs, an eighth-grade student from Lucas Middle School in Durham, was named the 2018 Duke University Regional Spelling Bee champion. She will move forward to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. starting May 27.
Nearly 60 spellers competed Saturday morning at Riverside High School in Durham. The spellers, ages 8 to 14, had to win their school bees in order to participate in the regional bee. The spellers represented public, private, charter and home schools in Durham and Orange counties.
The ninth annual Duke University Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs, lasted three and a half hours and 11 total rounds. Students had to spell words such as “chrysanthemum,” “carotid” and “maelstrom.”
Onstage, when asked how it feels to be named regional champion, Closs said, “I don’t know if there’s a good enough word to describe it.”
Closs and her family will receive an all-expenses-paid trip from the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs to the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee. This trip feels all too familiar to the Closses – Hanna’s older sister, Bettie Closs, is a three-time Duke University Regional Spelling Bee champion (2014, 2015, 2016), so spelling skills run in the family.
“It’s invigorating, and it’s also so much pressure,” Hanna said about winning. This is her third year competing in the regional spelling bee. “My sister has won multiple times. I just wanted to do the best I could.”
“She so deserves it,” said Almaz Closs, Hanna’s mother. “She is a great speller. … Any word we see, we look at it. We try to guess the origin of the word, how it’s formed.”
The 2018 Duke University Regional Spelling Bee runners-up are Andrew Sergison from Lakewood Montessori Middle School in Durham and Alexander Lewis from The School for Creative Studies in Durham. A detailed schedule of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be publicized on the bee’s website beginning May 1.