Salisbury Middle student is spelling bee winner

Austin Loar became Wicomico County public schools’ fourth winner in seven years and the second from Salisbury Middle School to emerge as champion of the Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Spelling, which qualifies him to compete in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Loar, 12, topped 24 others in the single-elimination competition held Saturday by spelling “beachhead” correctly when runner-up Praneeth Galigutte of Delmar Elementary School stumbled on his word, “hoaxer.”

“My legs were shaking like crazy,” said Loar, describing his feelings as he awaited the word that would give him the win. He acknowledged after the event he momentarily hesitated, unsure whether the championship word had one “h” or two.

“I knew the word,” Loar said. “I told myself ‘I am able to spell it.’”

Loar eschewed the option of asking questions about a word’s country of origin, definition or to hear it used in a sentence. Instead, he handled words such as brackish, hydrology and bobbin with ease.

After winning his school-level competition, Loar said he followed online advice from the Scripps organization on preparing for the regional bee. He estimated spending two-to-four hours a week of extra study on spelling.

The 6th-grader credited English language arts teacher Tara Elliott with instilling in him the confidence he could win the regional event.

Among the other words Loar spelled correctly to propel him over 15 rounds to victory were sharpener, dicey, enthusiasm and stoic.

The latter could describe his approach as he stood on stage at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which has sponsored the event since its inception in 2013.

Sheila Loar said her son’s calm, on-stage demeanor is a reflection of his personality.

“We’re so proud of him,” she said.

Mrs. Loar and her husband Jason joined their son on-stage at UMES’ Fitzgerald center to pose for pictures following a ceremony where he received a custom medallion and online subscriptions to Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary.

Students between grades three and eight in public, private and home schools in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties are eligible to compete in the annual regional spelling bee.

Following his Saturday win, the champion said he was looking forward to a celebratory lunch where hoped to nosh on ramen, a favorite dish, which happened to be a word Aaron Zheng of Pinehurst Elementary School spelled correctly just ahead of Loar in round 5.

“We looked at each other and laughed,” Sheila Loar said.

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment