St. Anne student spells way to win Seventh-grader from Lititz takes Intell bee, will move on to compete in national contest
BY DAVID O'CONNOR, Staff Writer
Hannah Citsay of Lititz didn't spend weeks on end holed up with the dictionary when she was getting ready to face the best spellers in Lancaster County.
Her mom, Mary, quizzed her on some of the words and then it was, "OK, let's wing it," said Hannah, a seventh-grader at Lancaster's St. Anne School.
But because she's an avid reader, it could be said she's been preparing for Friday night's 55 annual Intelligencer Journal Spelling Bee most of her life.
She calmly and correctly spelled 18 words, starting with "ramen" and ending with "folkloric," to capture the dramatic spelling contest, held at Conestoga Valley Middle School.
"A lot of those words I knew, just from reading books," said Hannah, who turns 13 in a week and is interested in science.
She said she wants to do something interesting" for a career, something that allows her to explore. "This will definitely help," she said of her spelling bee win.
Hannah is the oldest of Bruce and Mary Citsay's three daughters. Her silbings are Catherine, 10, and Rebekah, 7.
Hannah bested a strong field in Friday's contest, which lasted 18 rounds and took more than two hours to complete.
"This was really unexpected," Hannah's mother said of her daughter's win.
The confident, outgoing Hannah competed in last year's spelling bee, finishing ninth. She said her previous experience helped her stay calm Friday.
"Otherwise, I might have been" nervous, she said. "This year, I knew I had done it before."
As allowed by the judges, she would sometimes ask for a word's definition to "buy time," she said.
"And sometimes, (asking about) the word's language of origin will help you with letters," she said. "A lot of it is just to let your thoughts get collected while you're up there."
The five finalists, all girls, in the grand champion rounds were: Hannah; Arianna Banning from Conestoga Valley Middle School, Hope Hensgen from Centerville Middle School; Christina McBride from Brownstown Elementary School; and Janae Taft from Conestoga Valley Middle School.
The last boy standing Friday was Jordan Texidor of Lincoln Middle School in School District of Lancaster, who made it to the 12th round before getting knocked out on the word "ecru."
The words got steadily more difficult as the rounds went on Friday, and the number of spellers being eliminated went from several in some of the early rounds to just a few or even none in the later ones.
Last year's champion, Lancaster Country Day School eighth-grader John Fulton, gave a spirited defense of his crown until being eliminated in the 12th round on the word "quisling."
John, as Hannah will do this year, went on to represent Lancaster County in Washington, D.C., at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
"It was one of the best experiences of my life," he told Hannah Friday.
Hannah recently spent time looking at the origins of words, said her mom, who described her daughter as "just a very avid reader."
"We go to the library (in Lititz, and sometimes Ephrata) quite a bit," Mary Citsay said, and Hannah and both of her siblings take home a lot of books.
Hannah had to tackle some tough words Friday, including "cruller," a kind of pastry, to "periphery."
In advance of Friday's spelling bee, 48 county schools had registered to participate, and 103 students qualified to take the written test.
Results of the 100-word test pared the group down to the final 33 students eligible to compete in Friday's contest. One of the students, however, did not participate on Friday.
The judges were Millersville University professors Christine Anthony and Kazi Hossain and Elizabethtown College professor Matt Skillen. The pronouncer was Millersville professor Richard Kerper.
Hannah will take part in the national spelling bee May 26 to June 1 in the nation's capital.