The Times West Virginian

January 16, 2014

East Fairmont Junior High’s Laura May spelling bee winner: PHOTOS

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Diablo, noun. Definition: devil. Origin: Spanish.


Spelling the word “diablo” made East Fairmont Junior High School eighth-grader Laura May this year’s Marion County Spelling Bee for grades 5-8 champion.

May, along with the second- through fifth-place winners, will go on to compete at the RESA 7 regional spelling bee in Bridgeport this March. The winner of that competition will go on to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., in May.

This isn’t May’s first county spelling bee win. She said she also won first place two years ago, when she was in sixth grade. When she went on to regionals that year, she got second place. She hopes to do even better this year, and has been hard at work preparing.

“I always study a lot for these things,” May said. “I study when I come home and on weekends.”

At East Fairmont High School Wednesday night, there were 108 students registered, representing each of the 11 schools in the county. 80 competitors ended up showing up to the competition, which started with a practice round around 5:30 p.m., and ran for two and a half hours until 8 p.m.

Organizer Alice Jean Muto said turnout was great this year.

“This was the first time in a long time that we’ve actually had all of the schools in Marion County participating,” Muto said.

Muto has organized the county spelling bee for over 10 years. She is a retired teacher from East Dale Elementary School. She also coaches, and said that she likes that the bee gets kids thinking about something other than sports.

“They’re doing something academic,” Muto said. “It’s great watching the kids spell words that I know there’s no way I could.”

Marion County gives out trophies to first- through sixth-place winners, though, for regional competition, the sixth-place winner is an alternate.

In first place was Laura May, an eighth-grader from EFJHS. Second went to Trinity Rollins, a fifth-grader from Pleasant Valley Elementary School. Jayme Phillips, a fifth-grader from East Park Elementary School, got third place. Fourth place was Adia Kolb, a sixth-grader from Mannington Middle School. Fifth place was Lilly Miller, a fifth-grader from East Dale, and the alternate was Mikel McCrone, a sixth-grader from East Park.

RESA 7’s regional spelling bee will be held at the Bridgeport Conference Center March 19. Registration will start at 6:30 p.m., and the competition will begin at 7 p.m. It will be a much smaller competition than Marion County’s, with 45 students from grades four through eight competing. Each of RESA 7’s nine counties sends five students.

Muto said that students at regionals get gift bags and can win door prizes. Awards are presented for first through fifth place. Unlike the county bee, however, only the first-place winner will move on to nationals in D.C. The second-place winner will act as alternate.

Muto said that she starts planning for the county spelling bee in August each year.

“I get all of the schools registered, and then each school is responsible for doing their own little bee, and then I coordinate everything else with all of the schools,” Muto said. Representatives from the schools act as judges for the competition.

This year’s competition ran longer than normal, Muto said. Only around one third of the students were out by the end of the first round, which started with the word “bandit.” Students were allowed to ask for the definition, country of origin, part of speech, alternate pronunciations, and for the pronouncer to use the word in a sentence. Words were varied, from political words, to geology terms, to more than one obscure mammal.

The second round brought it down to 15 competitors.

But in the third round, something interesting happened: all but three spellers were eliminated. This meant the students had to play for first, second and third place before finding out who won fourth, fifth and the alternate spot.

In the sixth round, the 13 who were out for rounds four and five got back in the game, spelling words like “olio” and “insidious.” Only three made it to the next round, when Kolb, who spent the competition moving to and from the microphone on crutches, spelled her way to fourth place.

After the winners were announced, everyone clapped as the students posed for pictures.

First-place winner May was asked what advice she had for the other winners on preparing for regionals.

“Study,” she said.

Email Colleen S. Good at or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.