Participants in the 2013 Van Wert County Spelling Bee pose with their awards after the bee. Pictured are (from left to right) Front row: Najah Martin, Angelina Haller, Madalyn Ward, Gavin Carter, and Brayden Langdon. Back row: Nick Motycka, Gabriella VanHorne, Joseph Schaufelberger, Zania Hasty, Lainie Jones, Derek Stout, Alyssa Fegley, and Emily Fegley. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Participants in the 2013 Van Wert County Spelling Bee pose with their awards after the bee. Pictured are (from left to right) Front row: Najah Martin, Angelina Haller, Madalyn Ward, Gavin Carter, and Brayden Langdon. Back row: Nick Motycka, Gabriella VanHorne, Joseph Schaufelberger, Zania Hasty, Lainie Jones, Derek Stout, Alyssa Fegley, and Emily Fegley. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT -Van Wert eighth grader Nick Motycka wore number 14 at Thursday night's Van Wert County Spelling Bee. But there were only 13 contestants. Motycka was given the choice of wearing the placard with the unlucky number or a safer one. His choice was easy. When asked if he was superstitious, Motycka answered simply, "I'm a baseball player," emphasizing the odd superstitions that have been a part of that game for many years.

Lucky or not, Motycka took the spelling crown by spelling the word "hominy" in the tenth round of the bee held at the Marsh Foundation Auditorium.

Motycka took advantage of a miss by Joseph Schaufelberger of St. Mary's School in the ninth round. After Schaufelberger misspelled " stucco," Motycka correctly spelled "crochet" then "hominy" to win the event.

"It was nice that when I got the last word, which was hominy," Motycka admitted. "I knew I could spell it."

He was often seen holding that placard with the number 14 on the front. As he considered the correct spelling, Motycka would use his finger and the placard to spell it out. "I always do that because I can kind of visualize with my fingers," he explained.

It was the second appearance for Motycka in the Van Wert County Spelling Bee. He represented Van Wert Elementary in fifth grade, but was not as focused as he was this time.

"It's different than when I was in fifth grade when I was laughing about random things. I think I was a little more cute in fifth grade!" he said.

After two practice rounds, the group of 13 spellers thinned out quickly as five spellers did not reach the second round of competition. Crestview fifth grader Madalyn Ward (mentor), Crestview seventh grader Derek Stout (windily), Lincolnview fifth grader Gavin Carter (slav), Lincolnview eighth grader Zania Hasty (fathom), and Van Wert sixth grader Najah Martin (prairie) missed their first round words.

Lincolnview seventh grader Lainie Jones misspoke while attempting "guru" in the second round. Then Van Wert fifth grader Angelina Haller tripped over "dungaree" and Van Wert seventh grader Gabriella VanHorne missed "innate" to reduce the contestants to five heading into the fourth round.

Crestview sixth grader Emily Fegley was the next to drop out, missing "bungalow" in round four. Her sister, Crestview eighth grader Alyssa Fegley fell in the next round on the word "sputnik," then one round later, Lincolnview sixth grader Brayden Langdon misspelled "beige" to set up the showdown between Schaufelberger and Motycka.

Each of the champion spellers were presented with a certificate. Schaufelberger was designated as the alternate and Motycka as the county champion for the regional round of the Spelling Bee.

Motycka claimed afterward that the key to his victory was not the amount of studying he had done.

He proudly declared, "Obviously, the most important thing was the lack of the number 13!"