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Spelling whiz takes prize for fourth year

Posted: March 3, 2012 - 3:26pm  |  Updated: March 3, 2012 - 3:33pm
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Rachael Cundey, 13, smiles after she spells her last word correctly and is named the winner of the Regional Spelling Bee competition Saturday.  Michael Holahan
Michael Holahan
Rachael Cundey, 13, smiles after she spells her last word correctly and is named the winner of the Regional Spelling Bee competition Saturday.

Twitter @ColumbiaCounty

By correctly spelling “insidious” and “flamboyant,” Rachael Cundey earned her fourth contiguous win at the 2012 local qualifying spelling bee for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

Rachael, a seventh-grader at Lakeside Middle School, correctly spelled 15 words to win. Second place was Larisa Crowder, a home school student from Aiken, that stumbled over the Greek-origin word “periphery.”

Alyssa Carrad, a 12-year-old from Westminster Schools of Augusta, mistook an “e” for an “i” in the word “homogeneous” during the 11th round. Alyssa placed third in Saturday's bee.

Fifteen elementary and middle school students competed in the bee sponsored by The Augusta Chronicle and held Saturday morning in the Morris Auditorium. The bee lasted about 50 minutes.

After all spellers advanced past the first round, nine spellers were eliminated in the next four rounds. Five girls remained and did not misspell a word until round nine.

Rachael quickly spelled her words without hesitations. Every word was on a vocabulary list she studied daily. Participating in spelling bees becomes easier each time, she said.

“I’m always a little nervous, but I was more comfortable this time than I have been before. I think I’m just used to it now,” she said.

To prepare, she studied Latin and Greek roots as well as different spelling patterns. Rachael studies for three to four hours on a weekend day in addition to one hour after school days.

Rachael’s mother, Tammy Cundey, said Saturday’s bee was a great competition with six spellers returning from last year’s local qualifying bee.

“We knew they had the experience from last year so we knew things might be tougher,” Cundey said.

Rachael said she might take one day off from studying and practicing, but then it’s back to the books to prepare for the national spelling bee.

As champion of Saturday’s bee, Rachael won an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the competition held May 27 to June 1.

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Comments (6)


Congrats to Miss Cundey--she

Congrats to Miss Cundey--she is obviously a good speller. But let's get real here. Compared with the rest of the state, Augusta has a super-easy qualifying road to the National Spelling Bee. If you live anywhere else in GA, you have to win the *whole* state in order to make it to the NSB. GA has nearly 10 million people, while the metro Augusta area has at most 500,000? That means that winning the spelling bee for the state of GA would be roughly 20 times harder than winning the Augusta bee, even though both are qualifiers for the NSB.

AFAIK, Miss Cundey has never even made it to the semifinals at the NSB, even though she's already been there three times. If she lived anywhere else in GA, she would probably have a tough time even making it to the state bee, much less winning there. If Cundey can make it to the semifinals at the NSB this year, that would be pretty impressive. If not, then she's simply fortunate to have a qualifier that's about 20 times easier than the one for the remaining 95% of kids in GA.

Of course, Miss Cundey isn't to blame for that. The whole concept of the spelling bee is a joke, for many reasons: 1) The huge disparity in difficulty in the regional bees across the nation; 2) The fact that everyone gets a different word to spell. 3) The fact that making one mistake (usually) means you're eliminated. 4) The fact that the organizers of the spelling bee tend to pick very obscure words once they depart from prepared lists. What this all means is that spelling bees are so much about luck. Can you imagine a golf competition in which everyone gets a different hole, and then whenever you do poorly on a particular hole, you're out??? Well, that's what the spelling bee is about in a nutshell, and it's tantamount to child abuse if you ask me. What they should do is give all the spellers a test of 100 words--that would give you the best speller at least 95% of the time. But alas, that would make way too much sense. :P And it wouldn't be as entertaining. Unfortunately, entertainment seems to be way more important to the organizers of the spelling bee than fairness.

Craig Spinks


Miss Cundey.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

Just My Opinion

Well, good job....

First off, I wonder how many times this article was proofread for spelling mistakes! rsmith seems to have much to say about the entire process and sounds somewhat knowledgeable about it, but I was glad he/she still gave Rachael Cundey her due recognition. I feel like this is the episode on "Little House on the Praire" where little Mary Olsen went to the Minnesota state spelling bee championship and ended up coming in second...she was devastated because she thought the town of Walnut Grove would be upset she didn't win. Instead, the townspeople came out and welcomed her with open arms and were just extremely and sincerely proud of her! Rachael, just go and do your best. We're already very, very proud of you! You wrok....uh, I mean rock!


WOW rsmith

It's just a spelling bee, let the kid enjoy her moment!


stillamazed, Hi. My main


Hi. My main point is that people seem too entranced with the spelling bee. I'm just trying to offer some perspective. I feel that the spelling bee kind of chews kids up and spits them out. I am greatly concerned about the well-being of these kids, as well as the huge role that luck plays in the spelling bee. I feel that the format should be greatly changed so that all kids have to spell the same words, and that the person who spells the most words correctly is the winner--just as the person who gets the best score in a golf tournament wins.

The kids who participated in this bee are no doubt very hard-working, and I wish them all the best. Kudos to Miss Cundey as the winner, and I hope she does very well at the national bee in a few months.