From left to right, Lauren Black, Una VanWynsberghe, and Michaela Debbe. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
From left to right, Lauren Black, Una VanWynsberghe, and Michaela Debbe. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – For the third year in a row, Una VanWynsberghe captured the Van Wert County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee at the Marsh Auditorium on Monday evening. As a result she will move on to Fort Wayne Regional competition at IPFW on March 3.

Last year, the Lincolnview eighth grader cleared the Fort Wayne Regional and moved on to nationals in Washington, D.C. where she placed 41st in the country out of 200 competitors.

VanWynsberghe claimed this year’s title on the 11th round with the spelling of the word, “tomatillo.”  In the previous round, Lauren Black of Van Wert Middle School, misspelled the word, “toboggan,” to set the stage for the three-time champion to establish herself as the winner once again.

VanWynsberghe said that winning this year was about the same as last year. She noted that her energy is grabbed the most right now by learning to play the trumpet, an instrument she hopes to play into college.

“I want to major in music in college someday,” said VanWynsberghe.

She described last year’s appearance in DC as, “one of the worst experiences of my life.

“It was absolutely terrifying to me,” said VanWynsberghe. “It was such a big place and there were so many people around.”

VanWynsberghe’s mother,  Rachel VanWynsberghe, had a different slant on things.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her,” said the older VanWynsberghe. “She is under such tremendous pressure on stage, but she seems to relax so much when she steps up to the microphone.”?

While Black finished in second place, Crestview fifth grader Michaela Debbe finished third in the battle of 13 candidates.

Black said that she was excited about taking the runner-up spot. She noted that she tried to memorize word spellings the best that she could. Words that she had a difficult time learning how to spell were often practiced by looking up word sites on the internet.

“If I still couldn’t spell the word, I tried to spell without looking,” said Black. “I felt like a nervous wreck sitting up here on the stage, but when I stepped up to the microphone to spell a word, I was completely relaxed.”

There were both trophy and financial awards to the top three finishers.

Once again, Mrs. Sandra Freeman from the Western Buckeye Educational Service Center, served as the County Spelling Bee coordinator. Doug Grooms, school psychologist, special services coordinator, Van Wert City Schools, served as the pronouncer.

Judges were Mark Bagley, principal, Van Wert Middle School, Dan Metzger, principal, St. Mary’s of the Assumption School and Kathy Mollenkopf, principal, Crestview Elementary School.