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Zeigler wins regional spelling bee for fourth year in a row

Polo 7th grader sets record

At the Lee-Ogle-Whiteside Regional Spelling Bee, winner is spelled Z-E-I-G-L-E-R. 

For a record-breaking fourth year in a row, Polo’s Rebekah Zeigler earned a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 29-31 in National Harbor, Maryland.

The 12-year-old Aplington Middle School seventh-grader beat 37 other participants from three counties – including her little brother, Gage – to win the bee in 37 rounds Feb. 22 at Dixon High School’s Wiltz Auditorium. 

She and Gage, 11, a Centennial Elementary fifth-grader, studied separately, alternating practice sessions between their mother and the computer. It paid off: Gage finished in third place. 

“It was a lot more difficult this year, knowing Gage was in it,” Rebekah said.

The Zeigler siblings and Byron Middle School eighth-grader Rebekah Starwalt made it through 32 rounds before the event’s master list of 300 words was exhausted. 

Rebekah Zeigler breezed through “schadenfreude,” Gage had little trouble with “witloof,” and Starwalt survived “barukhzy.”

Words got a little easier after that with a new list, but Gage couldn’t quite ward off “parry” in the 34th round.

“I had never heard of it before,” said Gage, who used a single ‘R’. “I just couldn’t sound it out.”

It was “really, really” hard to compete with his sister around, he said. 

Rebekah S. eliminated Gage by successfully spelling “arrears” to narrow the field to two. 

The two Rebekahs traded off “quiddity” and “polenta,” but “hepatitis” was a bit of a challenge for Rebekah Z., who tried not to toss in an extra ’T.’

After that, Rebekah S. found difficulty with “colonnade” and threw in an extra ‘L’. When all was said and done, she came in second.

“Some of the tougher words were actually the ones in the beginning, because I forgot what they were. I kind of had to guess,” she said.

“Vamplate” was the reigning champ’s winning word.

“I knew it was probably going to go off-list, because I studied with [Gage] a little bit,” Rebekah Z. said. “I knew that we knew the words, so it was more nerve racking waiting for the words to go off-list and seeing if I knew them or not.”

Paul Swartz, a Steward Elementary eighth-grader, was Lee County’s best finisher, settling for fourth after adding one more ’T’ to “pizzicato.” 

Dutch Crady, an eighth-grade student at Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico Middle School, rounded out the top five and was Whiteside County’s highest finisher after missing “corpuscle” in the 18th round.

Now the Zeiglers will plan yet another trip to Washington D.C.

Rebekah is wanting to find new and different places to visit, but Gage already has made up his mind: the Georgetown Cupcake bakery.

“It has really good cupcakes,” he said. 

Other prizes awarded at the regional bee include a 2018 United States Mint Proof Set, online subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica, online subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Amazon gift cards, and medals and pins.

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