SCHENECTADY — When 14-year-old Ryana Sarcar heard the last word, she knew she had it.
“I knew, but I wanted to make sure,” said Ryana, a Niskayuna eighth-grader and the winner of Tuesday's regional spelling bee.
So she took her time, politely asking for the definition, language of origin and alternate pronunciations.
The word: Plenary. The stage: The championship round of the Capital Region BOCES Spelling Bee at Proctors main stage.
“Plenary,” she said before diving into the spelling. “P-L-E-N-A-R-Y. Plenary.”
With those seven letters, Ryana won herself a trip to Washington D.C. in May and a seat in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She also took home a laptop, a dictionary, $200 and a year’s subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Ryana was joined in the final round by her Van Antwerp Middle School classmate Katie Sumner, who took second place.
“This is such a high level of competition and a hard group, I didn’t know how far I would get,” Katie said after the final words were spelled.
The Niskayuna duo outlasted dozens of other spellers from across the region, wading through hours and hours of words.
Before plenary, Ryana correctly spelled kinesiology. And commodify. And pneumatic. And paradigm. And kirtle, a woman’s gown or a man’s tunic. And recidivism. Also corpuscle. The one word Ryana was given that wasn’t familiar to her: lathe. She spelled that right too.
Katie was almost taken down by the spelling of a word for a Belgian stew made of seafood or chicken and broth, egg yolks and cream. But, yes, she spelled waterzooi correctly. She also nailed alcazar, a Spanish fortress, and asana, a type of yoga pose.
Girls dominated the day, taking the final five spots. Kyleigh Millett, a Mohonasen seventh-grader who delivered the spellings slowly, letting the letter gradually float one-by-one toward the judges, took third place. Rachel Pahl of Voorheesville came in fourth.
Schenectady sixth-grade boy Reese Hull, of Oneida Middle School, was the last boy to finish at sixth place. Improving over his performance last year, Reese didn’t take the time soliciting pronunciations and definitions that other students did; once he knew the word, he went for the spelling. He nailed keest, visceral, taupe, Blitzkrieg and more before coming up short on quiddity.
He studied more than 1,600 words before Wednesday’s competition, but even that wasn’t enough.
“I didn’t even recognize some of these words,” he said, adding that he plans on returning next year. “It makes you feel really good about spelling words.”
Kingston Yao Czajkiowski, a fourth-grader from Cairo-Durham, earned the affection of the crowd as the young speller made it to the final 15 contestants. Along the way he made short order of words like jiva — the immortal essence or soul of a living organism.
“You’re in fourth grade, 5-6-7-8, you can be with us for four more years,” moderator Linda Rudnick told him after he left an “L” out of surveillance. “I hope you will.”
Ryana, who will join other regional winners from around the country at the national spelling bee in late-May, said she spent the past six weeks practicing at home with her mom, trying to devote an hour to practice each day. She studied word lists and relied on years of reading. Her parents and younger brother watched the bee unfold from the seats in Proctors’ main theater.
“I was hoping she spelled it right and she did, I was overwhelmed,” said Ryana’s mom, Aditi Sarcar. “It was a long day. Yes, I was stressed; I had to borrow a Tylenol.”