It took 20 rounds, 172 words, and a little over an hour for Aubrey Younger to emerge as the 2013 Warren County Spelling Bee champion.
In front of parents, family members and other spectators, the contestants took their seats at the front of the room with their nerves all but hidden.
By the end of round 14, only five competitors remained.
Times Observer photo by Brian Collins
Aubrey Younger, left, flashes a much-deserved smile after successfully spelling the winning word ‘integral’ at the 2013 Warren County Spelling Bee. At left are top finishers (from left) Taylor Childress, Gabrielle DuBois, Aubrey Younger, Nick Bayer, and Corry McCoy Younger correctly spelled ‘integral’ to win, followed by DuBois, Bayer, McCoy and Childress
Taylor Childress, a fifth-grader at the Warren Area Elementary Center, finished in fifth place moments later after she was unable to correctly spell 'incoherently.'
Corry McCoy, an eighth-grader at Youngsville Elementary Middle School, was the next to go at the hands of 'ardent,' followed closely by Nick Bayer, a sixth-grader also at Youngsville, who failed to spell 'flirtatious.'
After Gabrielle DuBois, an eighth-grader at Sheffield Area Middle High School, misspelled 'indivisible,' Younger only had to spell one more word correctly to secure her spot in the 63rd Annual Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee in Pittsburgh.
"Integral. i-n-t-e-g-r-a-l. Integral," Younger said, steadily and with confidence.
After receiving confirmation from the panel of judges, a smile finally emerged from behind the stolid facade that had stared confidently into the eyes of the judges all throughout the competition.
A fifth-grader at Sugar Grove Elementary School, Aubrey is a student in Tammy Head's class. To be eligible to compete at the county level, Younger first had to top her classmates.
"To prepare, I gave the kids the lists for fifth and sixth grade along with a website they could go to get more words," said Head. "several weeks later, the whole class participated and Aubrey won. She was pretty nervous when she left here yesterday, but I told her, 'Do your best. You're there to compete and you can hold your own.' She's a good speller."
With the local competition behind her, Younger has a lot of preparation to do for the Western Pennsylvania competition, but she'll have help. "My dad reads me a word and then I spell it back to him," she explained. "I also study the words Mrs. Head gave us."
Asked how she felt about competing at the next level, all Aubrey could do was smile and shrug her shoulders.
"It's pretty amazing that a fifth-grader won out of all those kids, added Head. "We're very proud of her."
For WAEC Assistant Principal Ann Ryan, this year marks the first time she has been in charge of the event. "I wasn't sure what to expect," she said. "It's been quite the experience and the kids have worked so hard. We're proud of all of their efforts and look forward to seeing what Aubrey can do in Pittsburgh."
Ryan thanked the sponsors of the event as well as Cynthia Blodget, Teresa Borger, and Rosemarie Green, who served as judges, and Priscilla Breese, who acted as the moderator, pronouncing the word and reading a sentence to the contestants. Sponsors included the Times Observer, Wal-Mart, Thorne's Bilo, and Little Caesars.