SCHENECTADY -- When Schenectady’s middle school spelling bee got down to its final two contestants Friday afternoon, both missed chances to steal a victory.
Central Park Middle School students Nabil Najeebi, a seventh-grader, and Sanjay Persaud, an eighth-grader, faced off for the win. With just two spellers left, any missed word gave the other speller a chance to spell that word correctly to become champion.
Three times, Nabil and Sanjay confused the same words: "gorgeous," "sonata" and "caribou" stumping them both.
But Nabil sealed the win after Sanjay slipped in spelling "imperative." Nabil then won the bee outright with his championship word: "sarcasm."
Standing at the microphone as the final competitor, Nabil smiled, clasped his hands together and savored the victory.
“I feel great,” Nabil said after the competition.
How did he prepare? Nabil described a basic – but effective – study strategy.
“I go upstairs with my librarian, and I study words,” he said. At Central Park, librarian Heather Keough works with budding spelling bee competitors during lunch in the school’s upstairs library. She works through long lists of practice words with students like Nabil and Sanjay.
“They work hard; they practice at home,” Keough said of her students. “They want to come in to practice more so they can do well.”
Nabil and Sanjay will advance to a regional spelling bee hosted at Proctors in the early spring. They will represent Schenectady schools against students from other area districts.
Before the middle school competition, more than 30 elementary students competed in their own bee. Woodlawn fifth-grader Stani Saldana took first place. Paige fifth-grader Matthew Krisnadat finished second, and Van Corlaer fifth-grader Devin Perkett-Salisbury took third place.