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By Jon Bishop

AYER — It’s the 25th Annual Page Hilltop Spelling Bee.

Well, not really.

But Page Hilltop did host a spelling bee at the Ayer Shirley Regional High School last Thursday, with a winner who would go on to compete in the regional tournament. The following step would be a famous spelling bee, but not one that did regular tours on Broadway: The Scripps National Spelling Bee.

There were 20 students, all of whom were in fourth- or fifth-grade, and they, according to Principal Fred Deppe, represented the top 10 percent of their respective grades.

None of them could ask for help from the audience or change letters.

And though they faced strict standards, in the end, as Deppe said, “they’re all Page Hilltop students, and we’re proud of them.”

They started with a practice round and had easier words like yes and also and today.

After that ended, Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Hamel, who read the words to the contestants, said, “They are warmed up and ready to begin.”

So they did.

The first round was a cakewalk. They easily faced down words like kickstand, wildcat, and haven.

But the next rounds started to get tougher. In the second round, one contestant lost his fight with dragon, and another failed to spell well-to-do correctly.

In round three, contestants saw words like indigo, force, haunt, circle, and famous. Round four brought burden, activity, patio, surplus, fraction, goblet, salsa. In the “ballad” of the spelling bee, there are always slip ups, and one contestant failed to spell the word quoted at the beginning of this sentence.

In round six, contestants had to spell words like neigh and forecaster and university. Round seven: novelist, limelight, molecule.

Three more rounds, and then it was the final four. One contestant fell in round 10. None fell in round 11. In round 12, two of the finalists lost to skirmish and edification.

And then there was one. She had to spell Goliath correctly.

She did.

Emily Granger, fifth-grade, then became the Page Hilltop School champion.

“I really didn’t see that coming,” she said. “I’m really excited. I’m really happy.”

“I’ve always been good at spelling,” she added. “I read a lot.”

She said she’s nervous about the upcoming regional championship, but she’ll try her best.

Samantha Murphy, another fifth-grader, placed in the top three, a fact that made her happy.

“It felt good,” she said.

Officials and administrators were proud of them all.

“Awesome job by everybody,” said Joyce Reischutz, chairman of the School Committee.

“It’s a tough competition,” Deppe said, who earlier had told the contestants that good spelling makes for good reading and writing.

Deppe said that Granger will compete with seventh- and eighth-grade students for the regional championship.

Her mother, Michele, can’t wait.

“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “She did such a great job.”

Follow Jon on Twitter and Tout: @JonBishopNP

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