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Kentucky Spelling Bee Champ Follows in Sister's Footsteps

Paul Keaton, a seventh grader from Christ Central School in Pikeville, won the 2014 Kentucky Spelling Bee, following in the footsteps of sister Emily who went to the National Spelling Bee five years running as a regional bee winner representing Kentucky. Emily, now a ninth grader, was no longer eligible to compete.

Paul will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., representing the Kentucky Spelling Bee, sponsored by the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications, KyForward.com and Kentucky Utilities. He will compete for a top cash prize of $30,000.

After a tense 22 rounds Saturday, Paul Keaton clinched his win by spelling “contralto” and “germicide,” his 22nd and 23rd words. But the other spellers did not make it easy for him.

Ashley DeVore, a fourth grader from Christian Homeschool Co-Op in Lexington, kept her cool through words from all around the world. In the 22nd round, however, “melismatic” tripped her up.

Abraham Nidhiry of the Danville Christian Academy missed “insouciant” and Tara Singh of the Louisville Classical Academy missed “veridical” in the 21st round to tie for third place.

Andrew Byrd, UK lecturer in linguistics, was the pronouncer.

“In order to know a word, you just have to see it multiple times and be familiar with it, so the key is multiple exposures,” Keaton said.

The first five or six rounds narrowed the group of 29 students down to 12 and a few rounds later, it was down to 6 students who went back-to-back for almost 10 rounds, before the competitors were down to two with DeVore and Keaton facing off.

Keaton said that he and his family study “whenever we can throughout the year.”

Mike Farrell, Spelling Bee coordinator, associate professor of journalism and telecommunications at UK and director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, mentioned Emily was there to support her brother.

When asked if the siblings were competitive, Paul replied, “we respect each other.”

Paul is headed to nationals after winning this bee and he said that if he doesn’t win at nationals, he will come back to the Kentucky Spelling Bee for his age-out year.

Despite the challenging competition this year, Keaton seemed extremely confident.

“I felt pretty sure throughout all the words,” he said.

Keaton will compete in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 18 in Washington D.C. The final rounds will be televised by ESPN.
 
This story appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by intern Erin Grigson, a senior at the University of Kentucky, where she is majoring in journalism and music education.

Photo by Adam Pennavaria