There was one word contestants could agree on in the minutes before Wednesday's Suncoast Spelling Bee began.
Twelve pupils from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties competed in the bee, sponsored by the Times and the Delta Zeta Sorority Alumnae. It was held in the Times' auditorium.
"Awful. Nervous," replied a jittery Kylie Quave, asked how she was feeling just before the contest began. Her mother, Sybil Quave, said she and Kylie's teachers used to give her words to spell for fun during field trips.
Rachel St. Cere, who also confessed to some pre-bee anxiety, said her love of reading goes hand-in-hand with her spelling proficiency. After correctly spelling the words "elegiac" and "ductility," Rachel was declared the bee's champion.
"I was kind of surprised," said Rachel, who won a trip for her and a parent to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on May 26-30. "I'm really excited."
A 14-year-old eighth-grader at Pinellas Park Middle School, Rachel said she likes to read historical fiction. Along with the trip, a plaque and a gift certificate, she received a hefty dictionary to help her prepare for the national competition in May.
"It's her honor," said Becky St. Cere, Rachel's mother. "She's the one who put the time in."
Wednesday's spelling bee went 15 rounds and included 72 words. Jeff Lee, a sixth-grader at Safety Harbor Middle School, came in second, while third place went to Amanda Rose, a sixth-grader at Central Catholic School in Citrus County.
Other winners were: fourth place, Kelly Cox of Hernando Christian Academy in Hernando County; and fifth place, Andy Goldfeld of Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater.