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'Porcelain' for the win: Liberty Bell student takes Johnson City Spelling Bee after close contest

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Feb 7, 2018 at 5:35 PM

Be honest. Do you think you could spell “porcelain” or “hemorrhage” if you couldn’t turn to your computer or smartphone’s spellcheck function?

Those two words ultimately decided the outcome of the Johnson City Schools regional spelling bee, which ended within an hour Wednesday afternoon in a close contest between a fourth-grader from Towne Acres Elementary School and a seventh-grader from Liberty Bell Middle School.

After eight other competitors left the stage on misspellings, Liberty Bell’s Rachel Leerssen and Towne Acres’ Xander Oshoniyi went head-to-head. Leerssen correctly spelled “dehumidifier,” setting the stage for a back-and-forth showdown between the two students competing for first place. Once Oshoniyi hit a roadblock with the word “physical” — putting an “I” in the place of the “Y” — Leerssen was ready to win it all.

But then came the word “consortium” — a word Leerssen had never been asked to spell.

Luckily, Leerssen had another chance with “definitely,” but again failed to bring it home when she forgot the “e,” giving Oshoniyi another chance to come back and spell the word “satellite.”

At this point, it looked like Oshoniyi could win it all, but he hit yet another roadblock when he tried to spell the word “hemorrhage,” allowing Leerssen to take first place when she correctly spelled “porcelain.”

After the neck-and-neck contest between the two students, runner-up Oshoniyi said he was surprised he came so close to winning the top spot. If it wasn’t for the word “hemorrhage,” he said he probably could’ve won the trophy for first place.

He’s looking forward to next year’s regional spelling bee, where he hopes to come out on top.

“I was confident. A little bit nervous, but I think I did better than I expected,” Oshoniyi said. “I’ve never tried spelling that one before.”

During the last stretch of the competition, Leerssen was visibly nervous — though the champion was timid to admit it.

“I wasn’t really worried because I knew if I missed it, I’d still be in,” she said of her string of mistakes that almost allowed Oshoniyi to take the win.

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