With a confident smile and a relaxed style — hands in his pockets and his feet going up and down in rhythm with each letter he gave — Jeremy Lun spelled dactylogram and academese.
With those words, the Dalton Intermediate seventh-grader won the 2013 Akron Beacon Journal Regional Spelling Bee. He’s now off to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee scheduled in late May.
“I feel very happy,” said Jeremy, 12. “I didn’t expect anything when I came here. I didn’t want to be disappointed.”
It took nearly three hours and 14 rounds to determine a winner and another four rounds to select a runner-up. About 150 well-wishers of family and friends watched the competition Saturday afternoon at the main branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library in downtown Akron.
Labeled the “best spellers of the area,” the 31 finalists represented schools from Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties.
Tom Stephan, the pronouncer and a retired Stow-Munroe Falls educator, said in his 52 years working with spelling bees, he was impressed that the spellers were readers.
He also said he had never come across so many comedians as contestants.
While many students asked for the word’s definition a second time or the origin of the word, some asked for the page number in the dictionary or the font size. One even kiddingly asked, “Can I get the spelling of that?’’
Some students felt more comfortable air writing the word with their fingers, while others didn’t care how they said the word as long as they could spell it.
While contestants breezed through, round four was the most grueling, knocking out 12 students with such words as efficacy, asana, gynarchy, roodebok, contrapuntal and maelstrom.
At the end, champion Jeremy Lun sat back in his seat, leaning over and rubbing his hands. He could barely contain his excitement.
He looked out in the audience at his family as Ferdian Aditama of Barberton Middle School and Veronica Velasquez of Edgewood Middle School in Wooster duked out the final words for second place.
The two seventh-graders went back and forth spelling one word correctly then misspelling the next word. They went through such words as cabaret, rapscallion, hegemonic, acquittal, bandicoot, peculate and styptic.
Veronica, 12, the daughter of Josephine and Victor Velasquez, earned the runner-up spot when she correctly spelled brilliantine.
“The last few rounds were the hardest, but I made some good guesses,” she said. “I practiced spelling with my brother Jonathan [17 and a senior at Wooster High School]. He helped me study the words.”
First-place winner Jeremy is the son of Ching Ching Lun and Lapman Lun. He said he recognized most of the words he needed to spell and thanked his mother for working with him.
“We went over different word lists that she got online, and they really helped me,” he said.
In fact, the Lun family has a history of spelling, thanks largely to mom.
“I’ve always been interested in spelling,” said Ching Ching Lun. “The key was to teach him how to break down the words, figure out the root word and the beginning and the end. If you know the pattern of the language of origin, it makes it easier to guess, but it’s not perfect.”
But Jeremy was perfect Saturday. He spelled every word correctly.
“My brother studied every day for at least 30 minutes, even in the car on his way to school,” said Jonathan Lun, 15, the 2010 Beacon Journal Spelling Bee runner-up.
The family teased younger sister, Abigail, 10, saying she would be next to enter the contest.
Jeremy Lun also won a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a huge book with 2,662 pages. It also came with a CD. He advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee held near Washington, D.C., the weekend of May 28-30.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.