The nerves felt by participants at Saturday’s Riley County Spelling Bee were not a placebo effect.
“Placebo” did, however, play a part in the competition. It became the winning word when Stephanie Fu, an eighth-grader at Anthony Middle School, spelled it correctly in the 13th round.
“I was nervous in the beginning, but it got easier,” Fu said.
Fu said she made flash cards and studied them in her free time to prepare for Saturday’s bee, which was sponsored by The Mercury for the 40th year.
Fu will advance to the Regional Spelling Bee on March 8 at Seaman High School in Topeka.
Fu she plans to keep to her flashcard strategy as she prepares for Topeka because, she said, “It works.”
Also advancing to the regional bee is second-place speller Ella Rosenkranz, a sixth-grader from Bluemont Elementary.
Rosenkranz battled Fu for the title for four rounds before Rosenkranz misspelled “oppress.” Fu then correctly spelled “atmosphere” before receiving the championship word, “placebo.”
Brett Seaton, last year’s county champion and a sixth-grader at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, became the alternate after a spell-off with Aza Davis-Picou, an eighth-grader at Eisenhower Middle School.
Seaton earned the alternate spot by correctly spelling “sophisticated.”
Fu won the bee three years ago as a fifth-grader and tied for third at the regional bee that year. She said she is looking forward to returning.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s kind of fun too,” Fu said.
Other participants in the county bee (All won their school bees.):
• Dani Williams, first-grader at Ogden Elementary
• Huixong Chu, fourth-grader at Amanda Arnold Elementary
• Justin Li, fourth-grader at Bergman Elementary
• Abrar Nassar, fourth-grader at Marlatt Elementary
• Ellie Hacker, fifth-grader at Northview Elementary
• Dacey Vanderbilt, fifth-grader at Christian Homes in Education
• Caden Hickel, sixth-grader at Woodrow Wilson Elementary
• Emily McBee, sixth-grader at Lee Elementary
• Sydney Wilson, seventh-grader at Manhattan Catholic Schools
• Sam Mairoana, eighth-grader at Riley County Grade School
• Katie Pralle, eighth-grader at Blue Valley Randolph Middle School