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January 13, 2020

Melody Harlan wins third straight county spelling bee

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Melody Harlan reacts to her third consecutive Fauquier County Spelling Bee victory on Saturday in Warrenton.
Oh, yes, I was plenty nervous.
— Melody Harlan
County Champions
• 2020 — Melody Harlan, Auburn Middle School.

• 2019 — Melody Harlan, Greenville Elementary School, and Haley Phillips, Auburn Middle School.

• 2018 — Melody Harlan, Greenville Elementary School.

• 2017 — Lily Von Herbulis, P.B. 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. 
Back and forth the top two spellers battled through 26 rounds and more than two hours Saturday.

Sixth-grader Melody Harlan and third-grader Riley Min had the stage to themselves after the first 12 rounds at William C. Taylor Middle School in Warrenton.

Words such as “diaphoresis,” “arborio” and “gossamer” had eliminated 43 other students — grade-level and school champions all — from the 14th Fauquier County Spelling Bee. The competition featured the top spellers from 11 elementary and five middle schools.

Battling for the title, the two seasoned spellers attacked obscure words as Serena Williams smacks tennis balls. Melody won the county bee in 2018 and tied for the championship last year, when Riley finished fifth — as a second-grader.

They correctly spelled words that would flummox most adults.

“Luminaria” for Riley.

“Arthritis” for Melody.

“Transmogrify.”

“Formicide.”

On four occasions late in the contest, Riley misspelled words, giving Melody the opportunity to win if she consecutively could spell two correctly.

Each time, she missed a word.

Riley also had chances to take the trophy in Rounds 17 and 24 when Melody missed “netizen” and “catabassus,” respectively.

But, Melody survived each close call.

Tension mounted.

Both spellers at times took long pauses, silently wracking their brains mid-word.

The clock ticked toward 12:30 p.m.

Then, Riley missed “nene” in Round 26.

Melody correctly spelled “legerdemain” and then “rhodium” to win the bee in her 27th round.

“Oh, yes, I was plenty nervous,” Melody admitted later.

She had practiced about three hours a day, often working with her parents Tina and Scott Harlan.

Auburn Middle School’s Melody and Greenville Elementary’s Riley will advance to the 19th Free Lance-Star Regional Spelling Bee in March in Fredericksburg. The regional winner will earn a berth in the national competition.

Andrew Marino won the county spelling bee a record four times, 2010-13.

With two years of eligibility remaining, Melody could break that record.
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