15 Sep 2014
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Bates Middle Student Top Speller in County Bee

Olivia Simmons of Crofton edges out LeAn Nguyen of Severn River Middle School for a spot in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

After going back and forth for nine rounds in the 2012 Anne Arundel Spelling Bee with one other speller, student Olivia Simmons eventually spelled her way to success.

Olivia, who lives in Crofton, walked away with the top spot Saturday afternoon, winning on the word "Damoclean" in Round 19.

The word, an adjective, refers to Damocles who, legend has it, spoke in extravagant terms of Dionysius’ happiness and was then invited to a banquet and made to sit underneath a sword suspended by a hair to demonstrate the precarious position of people in power.

Olivia spelled that correctly, shortly after correctly spelling "jovicentric."

“Normally, I’m nervous,” she said after posing for multiple photos and sharing many hugs and handshakes at the county Board of Education building in Parole. “But I wasn’t really nervous this time and that’s a good feeling.”

She said the head-to-head spelling with LeAn Nguyen from was difficult.

“It was kind of funny,” Olivia said. “The ones I got right I thought the whole time I was getting them wrong and the ones I got wrong, I thought I was spelling them right.”

She and LeAn kept pace with each other from Round 11 until the end. Each girl had misspelled a word and was saved when the other failed to pull ahead with a correct spelling of her own.

LeAn was eliminated when she misspelled "ignominious."

Olivia was the top speller out of 28 students from public and private schools across the county hoping for a shot at an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, to compete in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 29 to June 1.

Her parents, Francesca and Paul Simmons of Crofton, said they were nervous throughout the competition, and were excited with her performance regardless the outcome as she progressed into the later rounds.

“I was trying not to look at her at all,” her mother said. “I didn’t want to make her nervous.”

Paul Simmons said Olivia had started reading the national spelling bee word lists in third grade. He said her time at in Arnold, where she attended prior to going to Bates for the school’s performing arts magnet program, really seeded her interest in spelling.

“Once there was three (spellers) I knew it was going to come down to one letter,” Francesca Simmons said.

Other Annapolis area spellers included:

  • Eelaaf Zahid from , who was eliminated in Round 3.
  • Maia Brown from , who was eliminated in Round 2.
  • Kendall Schneider from , who was eliminated in Round 5.
  • Hope Lomvardias from , who was eliminated in Round 10.

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