Spelling is a polarizing subject: People either love it or they hate it.

Every year, millions of students participate in spelling contests around the country. Some dread the annual events and are relieved to drop out in the early rounds. Others, however, study for hours a day, hoping for the glory of bringing home spelling bee bragging rights and possible national recognition.

Seth French, Tahlequah Junior High School eighth-grader, doesn’t fall into either category. He was one of 99 county students in fourth through eighth grade who participated in the county spelling bee Tuesday morning at Central Elementary.

Seth emerged the triumphant champion, first spelling the word “ocular” correctly, which his opponent – Trina Hall, Grand View eighth-grader – missed. Then he sealed the deal by correctly spelling “stagnant.”

“I didn’t study at all,” said Seth, son of Mark and April French of Tahlequah.

Trina is the daughter of Jim and Sandra Hall, also of Tahlequah.

Both students qualified to participate in the Regional Northeast Oklahoma Spelling Bee to be held in Tulsa.

“I participated in the county bee last year,” said Trina. “But I didn’t make it to regionals. I’m really excited to be going this year.”

Trina’s parents have attended the county bee every time their daughter has competed, except for this event. Some might say it proved to be her good luck charm.

French participated in the regional bee last year, but was unsuccessful at advancing.

“I got knocked out in the first round of regionals last year,” said Seth. “It’s a tough competition.”

Kathy Carey, teacher at Central, is coordinator for the event.

“I’ve been coordinator for the last nine years,” said Carey. “Prior to that, Janice Randall was coordinator. As far as I’m aware, Tahlequah has always hosted the county bee.”

All county schools are qualified to participate, and most do. Participants in the county bee are grade winners from their individual schools. Winners in the county bee receive a certificate and opportunity to participate at regionals.

According to Carey, the Cherokee County Bee adheres to the rules put forth by Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

The National Spelling Bee was launched by the Louisville, Ky., Courier Journal in 1925. With competitions, cash prizes and a trip to the nation’s capital, the Bee hoped to stimulate “general interest among pupils in a dull subject.”

The Scripps Howard News Service took over the bee in 1941. Over the years, the bee has grown from a mere nine contestants to the 2005 high of 273.

Students in the county bee were given a word to spell by this year’s pronouncer, Scott Pettus, assistant athletic director at Northeastern State University. The students were allowed to ask Pettus to pronounce the word again, use it in a sentence and give its definition. Those spelling their words correctly went on to the next round; those who spelled their word incorrectly were dismissed by a small bell on the judges’ desk.

If judges were unable to hear a student, Carey provided an instant replay via audiotape, which came in handy in round three.

Words giving students trouble in the first round included potentate, charitable, pretzel, lamprey, trilobite, nunnery and pancreas.

Following round one, 33 of the 99 original participants remained. The number of participants in round three was 11; round four had four participants; and the Seth was determined champion in round five.

Judges for the event included Kathy Daniel, secretary at Central; Lynn Barrowcliff, intern at Central; and Glennda Pettus, a teacher at Central.

Winning words

The following is a list of winning spelling words used in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee held annually in Washington, D.C. Definitions were not provided. As any good teacher would recommend, if you don’t know the meaning, look it up!

2005: Appoggiatura

2004: Autochthonous

2003: Pococurante

2002: Prospicience

2001: Succedaneum

2000: Demarche

1999: Logorrhea

1998: Chairoscurist

1997: Euonym

1996: Vivisepulture

1995: Xanthosis

1994: Antediluvian

1993: Kamikaze

1992: Lyceum

A complete list of winning spelling bee words back to 1925 is available at www.factmonster.com/spot/spellingbee1.html.