LINCOLN — Little did Alexandra Fish know that when she accurately spelled the noun tableau, defined by Webster's Dictionary as “a striking, dramatic scene or picture,” she was living one herself.
That correct answer led the Lincoln Middle School eighth grader to the championship of the annual Lincoln School District Spelling Bee, held inside her home auditorium on Tuesday night.
Fish, who out-dueled fellow schoolmate and sixth-grader Alexandra Theroux, now will represent the district at the Rhode Island State Spelling Bee, to be held at this same site on Saturday, March 12 at 10 a.m.
While trying to spell each of the words she was issued by guest pronouncer Susan Roberts, the WPRI-TV (Ch. 12) News Anchor, she utilized a careful, thoughtful approach, enunciating letters three or four at a time and with apparent confidence.
“I think it's easier that way to break down the word,” Fish (also known as “Allie” to her family and friends, said after District Director of Curriculum Melinda Smith and Business Director Lori Miller gave the victor her trophy and participant medal.
“It went really well, but I was so nervous!” she added. “It was kind of scary, but I just tried to concentrate on what I was doing, not what the others were doing.”
The competition pitted the fourth and fifth-grade champions from Northern, Saylesville, Central and Lonsdale Elementary schools, and four each from the sixth-, seventh and eighth-grade classes at the middle school.
It also lasted 19 tension-filled rounds, and they kept most attendees on the edges of their seats. Head Judge Jeannine Magliocco, the Lonsdale Elementary School Principal, noted it may have been one of the district's lengthiest bees.
(The three other judges included principals Julie Dorsey of Saylesville, Patricia Gablinske of Central and Mark Thompson of LMS).
“This was longer because the words weren't administered to the participants last year,” Magliocco stated. “Both Allie and Alexandra Theroux are outstanding spellers.”
Throughout her trek to the title, Fish accurately spelled words such as technician, matrimony, ecosystem, hospice, epilepsy, carnage, incidental, fluoride, controversy, stroganoff, carbohydrates and afghan.
In the initial round, 14 students fell by the wayside with words such as serenade, gourmet, jubilant, puree, disappoint and accrued.
That left six, among them Central fifth grader Adam Zangari, Saylesville fifth grader Stefan Minyayluk, Theroux, seventh graders Elijah Stimson and Jakob Morris and Fish.
Morris lasted until the seventh round, but misspelled philosophize, and that left Fish and Theroux in the “Battle of the Alexandras.”
In Rounds 8-15, Theroux survived with correct spellings of dilemma, leniency, auditorium, ensemble, extemporaneous, extraordinarily, behemoth, and pituitary. She, however, failed to spell scythe in the 16th. Fish nailed tutelage, and that left her the word posthumous in the first one-word championship round.
When she uttered the letters “p-o-s-t-e-m-o-u-s,” Magliocco stated, “I'm sorry. That's incorrect,” and the 18th round started. Roberts offered beatific, which Theroux missed by a letter (“bettific”).
Fish responded with a correct response of timorously (showing fear or apprehension, which she later claimed she was more than feeling), then calmly tackled tableau.
“That word I spelled wrong, 'posthumous,' I had no idea how to spell it, so that had to be the hardest I faced,” Fish offered.
When asked how he felt about his sister's victory, sixth grader Charles Fish III, who also participated in the bee, said, “I hate her,” then laughed.
“No I don't, but I am envious,” he said with a smile. “You know, I'm really proud of her.”
Their parents, Charles Jr. and Jane, just said, “Ohhhhhhh!”
Turned out, Fish III was ousted in the initial round with “condiment.”
“I never heard that word before, so I freaked out,” he chuckled. He was asked if he likes ketchup or mustard when he goes to a fast-food restaurant, and claimed he did, but still didn't know what it meant.
Offered Jane: “I noticed she was very nervous up there; that's when I started getting nervous. As the rounds went on, it got worse, but I've always told our children, 'When you're worried or tense, just breathe.'”
Noted Allie Fish: “I could see my mom's eyes in the audience, so I was thinking that.”
LMS Principal Thompson explained he was thrilled with the competition, not to mention each and every student.
“I'm just so proud of all of our middle school kids, and I'm especially proud of our winner,” he said. “We wish her a lot of good luck in the state spelling bee.”