Black wins spelling bee

Southern student is 4th in family to achieve county title

The final four spellers take a breath as judges check out an appeal. The final four spellers are (from left) Nicholas Aldrich of East Liverpool, Connor Hooper of Wellsville and Silas and Justus Black of Southern Local. (Photo by Pattie Schaffer)

LISBON — For two hours Justus Black spelled words, but when he earned the title of Columbiana County Spelling Bee Champion Wednesday, he had few to say.

Black, a sixth-grader from Southern Local, stood silently clutching his plaque and statue, humbly basking in the honor of being the fourth and final member of his family to go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

The win did not come easy.

For 11 of the 21 rounds he spelled off with his older brother, Silas, who was the 2017 county bee champion, and Connor Hooper, a seventh-grader from Wellsville.

Silas Black finished 44th in the national bee last year. Their sister Harmony was the 2016 county bee champion, and before that, their eldest sister Jasmine competed in Jefferson County in 2015 while attending Edison Local. She also went on to compete in the national bee.

Justus, Silas and Harmony are all Southern Local students. This was the first time Justus participated in the county bee.

The siblings always make sure to wear something they believe brings them luck as part of a Chinese custom they adopted from their mother, Hoi Wah Black.

Justus was wearing his lucky T-shirt while Silas was wearing two lucky necklaces.

Justus won the bee by properly spelling “rhetoric” after his brother incorrectly spelled “perennial” and Hooper incorrectly spelled “gourami.”

Their father, Dale, said they had help studying from their sisters.

“They are just good spellers. They are very dedicated students. There were a lot of really good spellers here tonight,” Mr. Black said.

Out of the 45 spellers, six were return competitors

One of those return competitors was Hooper, who was competing at the county level for the third time. He had help studying from his brother, Aidan, who also competed at the county level three times.

Connor said he plans to return next year to compete.

“It was challenging. I was very nervous,” he said.

His mother, Shannon, said it was intense watching him compete several rounds with Justus and Silas.

Connor and Silas were awarded co-runners-up due to going out in the same round.

They were both awarded plaques and copies of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, donated by Merriam-Webster, and Valeris’ Spelling Bee Supplement, Nautical Words Booklet, donated by Hexco Academic.

Justus Black was awarded an all expense paid trip to Washington D.C., with one chaperone, to the national bee, donated by the Morning Journal, Salem News and The Review.

He was also awarded the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a 2018 United States Mint Proof Set, donated by Jay Sugarman, a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium, donated by Encyclopedia Britannica, and a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary, donated by Merriam Webster.

The bee is co-sponsored each year by the Morning Journal, Salem News, and The Review, alongside the Columbiana County Educational Service Center (ESC).

ESC Superintendent Anna Marie Vaughn congratulated the spellers at the end of the bee.

“We thought we were going to be here until 11 p.m and you were going to have a two-hour delay,” she joked of the spell-off between Justus, Silas and Connor.

One appeal was filed during the bee after East Palestine eighth-grader Aidan McTrustry incorrectly spelled “paddock” in the second round, with the judges stating they heard “pattock” and not “paddock.”

The appeal was overruled by appeals judge Brad Stephens, Salem Public Library director, after listening to the playback repeatedly.

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