Four Local Students Remain in Duke Spelling Bee Competition

Two students are children of Duke employees

The four spelling bee finalists, left to right: Evan Fahringer, Caroline Lazarus, Isabel LingYu Peng Murray and Jason Sorin. Photo by April Dudash
The four spelling bee finalists, left to right: Evan Fahringer, Caroline Lazarus, Isabel LingYu Peng Murray and Jason Sorin. Photo by April Dudash

The Duke University Regional Spelling Bee has reached the “Final Four.”

For the first time in the competition’s history, the bee ended Saturday without a declared winner. After four hours and 11 rounds at Riverside High School in Durham, four spellers remained on the stage.

“Everybody was just so exhausted. It’s just amazing that the students were so poised and concentrated that hard after a long ordeal,” said Lou Rollins, emcee for the spelling bee and director of special projects for the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs. “We have never had to bring spellers back for a spell-off before at the regional level.”

The four students and their families will be invited to a spell-off at a date and time to be determined. The students remaining in the competition are Evan Fahringer of Chapel Hill Homeschoolers, Caroline Lazarus (daughter of Duke University Photographer Jared Lazarus) of Charles W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough, Isabel LingYu Peng Murray of Durham School of the Arts, and Jason Sorin (son of Daniel Sorin, W.H. Gardner Jr. Professor in Duke Electrical & Computer Engineering) of Triangle Day School in Durham.

The “Final Four” represent the diversity of schools that competed in the spelling bee, to include homeschool, public and independent schools from Durham and Orange counties. End-of-bee procedure states that if all spellers in a round misspell, all remain in the competition and a new round begins. On Saturday, after remaining students misspelled championship words that would have determined a winner, the competition was halted due to length of time. 

Evan Marciniak represents Kestrel Heights School in Durham at the spelling bee.

Fifty-eight students participated from Durham and Orange counties in the Duke University Regional Spelling Bee, and all were competing for a seat at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May. During the bee on Saturday, students received words such as “goliardic,” “accrescent” and “espalier.”

“You should always be proud of what you have accomplished and be proud that you’ve had the opportunity to represent your school,” said Phail Wynn Jr., bee pronouncer and Duke’s vice president of Durham and Regional Affairs, to all of the participating students. “I want you to leave here feeling as proud of yourselves and of your accomplishments as your parents and teachers are proud of you. On three, I want you all to say in your loudest voice, ‘I am a champion.’ One…two…three…”

“I am a champion!” the students shouted, some raising their fists in the air.

The regional winner will be announced later this month by the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, which sponsors the regional spelling bee each year. 

Students get ready for the Saturday competition. Photos by April Dudash