LET THE spelling begin.
The 2014 Belmont County Spelling Bee plays out tonight at Ohio University Eastern. It will bring together the best spellers throughout the county, determined by bees at their respective schools.
Two spellers from each school punched their tickets into tonight's extravaganza, 18 in all.
It's a special honor for the young students to even advance to the county bee. We commend all those contestants for excelling at their home schools.
The pressure and stakes escalate at OUE.
Participants will be vying for the chance to advance to the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. That prestigious spell-off will be staged this May in Washington, D.C.
Each participant tonight will receive ribbons, plaques and certificates. Spellers finishing fifth through 18 will get a $50 cash prize, compliments of The Citizens Bank.
The talented participants are taking aim at the first-place title and trophy, and the chance to compete against the best spellers in the country at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The winner of the Belmont County Spelling Bee will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner, one parent and one teacher-coach during the week of the national competition.
Tonight's champion will also receive a $500 cash prize, Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged), the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a plaque with the two winning words for school display, The Times Leader/Riesbeck's Traveling Trophy for school display and a one-year subscription to the Britannica Online for Kids.
The Belmont County Spelling Bee runnerup will take home a $250 cash prize, a second-place trophy and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition).
For taking home third-place honors, a student will receive a $150 cash prize and a third-place trophy (compliments of Jenkins Sporting Goods in St. Clairsville), while the fourth-place winner will receive a $100 cash prize and a fourth-place trophy.
Regardless of tonight's eventual outcome, each contestant has demonstrated he or she has what it takes to be a winner. Each has responded to pressure and attained success.
We commend the bee sponsors for their commitment to our youth and we thank all the officials involved in making the event such a worthwhile undertaking.
Good luck to all the spellers!