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January 29, 2018

Greenville fourth-grader wins county spelling bee

Photos/Cassandra Brown
Spelling bee winner Melody Harlan receives a congratulatory kiss from mom, Tina.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A fourth-grader, who soon will appear on a national television show, won the annual Fauquier County spelling bee Saturday. 

Melody Harlan, 9, raised the trophy above her head after winning the county’s 12th annual event at Taylor Middle School.

“I feel amazing,” said Melody, a Greenville Elementary student. “This is so awesome.”

Melody on March 18 will appear on a new NBC-TV quiz show, “Genius Jr.” During the filming in California, she and her two teammates, also selected from a nationwide pool, solved complex math problems, spelled difficult words and used memorization to compete against other students.

Her father, Scott, said the “high-pressure environment” of a TV set helped prepare Melody for the spelling bee.

Forty-eight students competed Saturday morning on the Taylor auditorium stage.  Students from 11 elementary and five middle schools qualified by winning their building or grade-level competitions.

Melody placed third in Greenville’s spelling bee in December.

She also participated in last year’s countywide spelling bee, but came in 10th place.

Spelling bee organizer John Lucas and pronouncer Eileen Burgwyn chose words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee list.

Last year’s champion, Lily Von Herbulis, stumbled on “streusel” in the fifth round.

By the seventh round, two spellers remained: Melody and Cedar Lee Middle School eighth-grader Sage Laine.

But, in the 10th round, Sage stumbled on “gouhlden.”

After 11 rounds and about 120 minutes, Melody correctly spelled “umlaut” — a mark used over a vowel in German or Hungarian — for the win.

To prepare, Melody studied every night for 30 minutes to two hours with her mom.

“We made flashcards,” Melody said. “It helped a lot this year.”

Her mother, Tina, categorized the words by language of origin and created games for practice.

“It was a lot of words, and it was difficult to make it fun,” Ms. Harlan said. “She’s brilliant at memorizing.”

Melody, who lives near New Baltimore, practiced spelling more than 1,000 words from the list every day for two months. She also wore her lucky cat ear headband during the competition.

Her dad, Scott, said he felt “proud, not only that she won, but over the last few years, she has set goals and figured out what she wants to achieve and set out to do the work.”

To celebrate her win, Melody planned to have a play date with a friend, see her grandma and go out to eat.

Her goals include becoming an artist, a math teacher, a cook and an Olympic swimmer.

Superintendent David Jeck, school board Vice Chairman Suzanne Sloane (Scott District) and Associate Superintendent for Instruction Major Warner served as judges.  

Melody and Sage will advance to the 13th annual Free Lance-Star Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 17, at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg. 

The regional winner will qualify for the 91st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in May held in Maryland. 


County Spelling Bee Champions

• 2018 — Melody Harlan, Greenville Elementary School.

• 2017 — Lily Von Herbulis, PB Smith Elementary School.

• 2016 — Kyra Holland, Marshall Middle School. 

• 2015 — Kyra Lucas, Bradley Elementary School.

• 2014 — Kyra Holland, Marshall Middle School.

• 2013 — Andrew Marino, Warrenton Middle School.

• 2012 — Andrew Marino, Warrenton Middle School.

• 2011 — Andrew Marino, Warrenton Middle School.

• 2010 — Andrew Marino, Brumfield Elementary School.

• 2009 — Michelle McClanahan, Taylor Middle School.

• 2008 — Ryan Nary, Taylor Middle School.

• 2007 — Hana Pross, Coleman Elementary School. 
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