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Competitors spell it out at Amherst College

(Amherst College/ Facebook)

The Third Annual Amherst Intramurals Spelling Bee took place last Thursday night in the heart of Amherst College. In the Friedmann Room in the Keefe Campus Center, a crowd of people cheered on the seven competitors on stage as they spelled word after word.

Spellers competed for various prizes, with first place winning a $100 Amazon gift card as well as an “Amherst Intramural Champion” t-shirt and with the runner-up winning a $25 Amazon gift card.

The two moderators, Emily Horwitz and Corey Michalos, read the words each round and provided sentences as well as definitions upon request. Horwitz, a recent graduate of Amherst College, is the assistant director of the intramural program, responsible for organizing the spelling bee. Michalos is in his first year as the director of community standards at Amherst College.

Throughout the night, contestants and audience members fed off of each other’s energy and excitement. Every time a competitor spelled a word, whether it was correctly or incorrectly, the crowd erupted with screams, cheers and laughter. The whole event was filled with humor as the first word was “apple” followed by words such as “banana,” “grape” and “melon,” therefore, round one was dubbed as the “fruit-flavored” round.

Round one saw no eliminations, and was followed by another clean round that reminded the audience of a trip to the grocery store.  Some of the words spelled in that round were “bread,” “egg,” “cheese” and “beef.”

Round three saw the first elimination, with an incorrect spelling of “mozzarella” as well as the second elimination with an erroneous spelling of “cinnamon.” In round four, words came forward such as “boysenberry,” “fettuccine” and “hollandaise,” with these three words leading to three more eliminations.

In the last round, with only two people left, the rules changed: if one of the contestants misspelled a word, then the other contestant would have to spell two different words correctly in order to win the competition. The last two contestants, Jamie McNamara, a junior history and french double major, and Caleb Williams, a freshman environmental studies major, squared off, with Williams going first.

Williams’ word was “ineffable,” which he spelled incorrectly. McNamara stepped up to the microphone, first spelling “belligerent” correctly, and then ending the competition by spelling “kaleidoscope.”

When asked about being the runner-up, Williams said, “I’m really proud of my performance.”

Williams continued, saying he felt like he could have done better, but he said that being the “runner-up isn’t last.”

McNamara is a part of the Amherst College Women’s Ice Hockey team, and she was so happy that her team came out to support her and that their cheering kept her confident.

“I’m shocked and surprised. I wish there were more rounds, but I’m really glad that I did this tonight and I’m ready for next year,” McNamara said when asked about her victory.

McNamara’s advice to anyone who wants to do well in a spelling bee was, “read a lot and learn another language.”

After the spelling bee, Horwitz encouraged the audience, as well as the competitors, to help themselves to the leftover refreshments and food provided, which included cider doughnuts, apple cider, cheese spread, crackers, and pound cake.

When asked why all of the words were food-based, Horwitz laughed and said, “I’m a big foodie, and it’s tricky because you eat food all of the time, but do you know how to spell it?”

“I’m happy a lot of people came out to support their friends and that people embraced the concept of the spelling bee,” Horwitz said. “The goal was to have a fun event and we definitely succeeded.”

Signaling the end of the evening, contestants and audience members donned their jackets, headed for the door, and thanked Horwitz for coordinating a fun and entertaining 30-minute study break.

Miranda Emily Eden Senft can be reached at msenft@umass.edu.

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