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McDonnell crowned Spelling Bee champ

OMS' Irish McDonnell with her 2018 spelling bee trophyOswego Middle Schooler Iris McDonnell took first place in the 2018 Oswego Regional Spelling Bee Final and punched her ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, to be held in Washington, DC.

The following article appeared in the March 19 edition of The Palladium-Times.

Spelling Bee champion crowned


OSWEGO — Iris McDonnell, an eighth-grader at Oswego Middle School, will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. after outlasting 25 other competitors Saturday in the 2018 Regional Spelling Bee Finals.

It took 16 rounds to whittle the competition — held at Oswego High School — down to two spellers, McDonnell and eighth-grader Mary Kate Cloonan, who finished as runner-up for the second consecutive year. The two young ladies battled back-and-forth with neither missing a word until the 21st round when Mary Kate Cloonan heard the dreaded bell, signaling a misspelling.

Then, McDonnell needed to spell two words to win the trophy and did so with no hesitation — nailing “intaglio” and “edelweiss.” Intaglio means a design incised or engraved into a material, while edelweiss is a European flower found in the mountains.

McDonnell, who participated in the regional bee in fourth through sixth grade, said she knew both words before stepping up to the microphone after nearly four months and around 14 hours per week of studying.

“I had to prepare a lot and I worked really hard,” said McDonnell.

As the top speller among the 26 participants in the regional bee featuring spellers from just the Oswego City School District, McDonnell will head to the national competition in the nation’s capital from May 27 to June 1. Event organizers estimated roughly 300 spellers would take part in the national bee.

McDonnell’s parents, Emily and John, said the whole family was “very proud,” of her hard work.

“I hope no matter what happens that she enjoys the experience (in Washington D.C.),” said McDonnell’s mother. “She worked hard for this.”

After McDonnell and Mary Kate Cloonan, rounding out the top five in the regional event were seventh-grader Anna Cloonan (3rd), fourth-grader Mitchell Treasure (4th) and fifth-grader Audrey Donovan (5th).

Jon Spaulding, publisher of The Palladium-Times, said the local newspaper was honored to host the spelling bee.

“It just seems like the spellers get better and better every year,” said Spaulding. “They study and it shows. For it to go to 21 rounds, that’s a great contest. I think it was entertaining for everyone and I’m so happy for Iris. You can see how happy she is to represent us in D.C.”

Oswego Superintendent Dean Goewey said the event is a wonderful opportunity for students to excel outside the classroom.

“Events like this provide opportunities for our children to expand their educational horizons and do things extra outside of the classroom,” said Goewey. “They also provide opportunities that give them lifelong memories about school and Oswego.”

In addition to The Palladium-Times, the Oswego County Federal Credit Union, NBT Bank, Exelon and Oswego Rotary sponsor the regional bee.

As a new sponsor, OCFCU helped expand the cash prizes to the top 10 overall spellers.

Spaulding noted the sponsorships afford the Port City something not every community its size gets — a guaranteed spot at the national bee.

“It is not typical for a market the size of Oswego to have a regional final,” said Spaulding. “For 28 years, we’ve been sending someone from the Oswego City School District, which is just unheard of.

“There are students in neighboring towns like Fulton, Hannibal and Mexico that have to compete for a place against other schools. It’s just a very special thing that Oswego has.”

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