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Students to compete in 81st annual Buffalo News Spelling Bee

Twenty-one students will compete in the oral finals of the 81st annual Buffalo News Spelling Bee at 1:30 p.m. March 9 in the Buffalo History Museum.

Earlier this month, 66 school champions took a written test to narrow the field. There was a tie for the final spot, so there will be 21 competitors rather than the usual 20.

The finalists are:

Eric Stroud, eighth grade, Alexander Middle School; Therese Pivarunas, sixth grade, Children of Mary Home Schoolers, Elma; Samantha Maroshick, seventh grade, Depew Middle School; Michael McDonald, eighth grade, Fillmore Central School; Seth Schrader, eighth grade, Fredonia Middle School; Madeline McCoy, eighth grade, G.R.A.C.E. Leah Home School; Maddalena Ohrback, eighth grade, Heim Middle School, Williamsville; Santino Panzica, sixth grade, Immaculate Conception, East Aurora; Philip Davis, eighth grade, Kenmore Middle School; Zachary Wilson, eighth grade, Lake Shore Middle School.

Also, Tyler McDonnell, seventh grade, Livonia Middle School; Zoe Buck, seventh grade, Mill Middle School, Williamsville; Callan Izatt, seventh grade, Nardin Elementary School; Saloni Kumar, eighth grade, Nichols Middle School; Gabriel Williams, eighth grade, Olean High School; Andrew Erdman, eighth grade, SS. Peter and Paul, Williamsville; Hawraa Ahmed, eighth grade, South Buffalo Charter School; Dennis Majdandzic, seventh grade, Sweet Home Middle School; Kiley Weber, eighth grade, Transit Middle School, East Amherst; Alexandra Bonafede, sixth grade, William Street School, Lancaster; Joanna Elledge, eighth grade, Wilson Middle School.

The News, in cooperation with area schools, has sponsored the spelling bee since 1927 for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in the nine-county Western New York area. The winner from the March 9 competition, along with an adult escort, will travel on an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent Western New York in the Scripps National Spelling Bee during the last week of May.

The local title also carries a $100 cash award, $50 in additional spending money for the trip and an engraved pen and pencil set. The next top four finishers will receive an engraved pen and pencil set along with these cash prizes: second, $75; third, $50; fourth, $35; and fifth, $25. A special $25 cash award will be given to the contestant scoring the highest grade on the written test. This prize is announced at the bee.

Other prizes to be given out at the competition include:

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged; The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition; a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopaedia Britannica; and gifts from The Buffalo News.

In May, all champions from schools registered in the 2014 Buffalo News Spelling Bee will receive a gift from The News. There will also be a certificate of merit for each school runner-up.

The pronouncer for the March 9 bee will be Cynthia Pearson, a retired South Park High School English teacher .

Judges will be Kathleen Kreis, former director of English and library services for the Buffalo Public Schools; Carol Schlau, a Buffalo News copy editor; and Deborah Patti, bee coordinator.

Emcee for the competition will be Bruce Andriatch, News assistant managing editor for features. Kreis and Pearson also prepared both the written and oral tests.