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Concord’s 'temerarious' Hannah Miller wins state spelling bee with Latin skills

  • Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to be lowered before her turn during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to be lowered before her turn during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to get lowered before her turn  during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to get lowered before her turn during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to be lowered before her turn during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Green Valley Montessori Learning Center's Garima Rastogi waits for the microphone to get lowered before her turn  during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • One of the judges is reflected into the bell that is run when a word is spelled incorrectly during the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Rundlett Middle School's Hannah Miller, right, smiles after mispelling a word in one of the final rounds of the 60th annual New Hampshire Spelling Bee on March 2, 2013 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. After several rounds against Isabelle Russell, of Hudson Memorial School, Miller went on to win the spelling bee, which is a preliminary competition to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Hannah Miller signed up for Latin classes at Rundlett Middle School to get a head start on her future career as a biologist. But while the roots of “prestigious,” “ululation” and “temerarious” might not help her master the scientific names of animals, they carried her through the 60th annual New Hampshire State Spelling Bee yesterday.

“I feel really lucky I got Latin words at the end,” 12-year-old Hannah said after the bee. “I know I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. I didn’t sleep at all last night.”

Temerarious – an adjective meaning rash or bold – got Hannah out of a back-and-forth duel with Isabelle Russell of Hudson that lasted eight rounds.

She was so confident on being asked to spell “temerarious” she almost didn’t ask pronouncer Carolyn D’Aquila for a definition. When she did, D’Aquila teased that forging ahead so quickly would have been quite temerarious of her.

As her last feat, Hannah conquered “subaqueous” – another adjective, meaning underwater – and didn’t seem to realize, despite the loud applause, she had won.

She received a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., for her and a guardian, sponsored by the New Hampshire Elks Association, and two trophies.

“I was most nervous when I was sitting listening to the words. There were so many I didn’t know, and I actually got more relaxed after I got my words,” Hannah said.

After a particularly tough set of words – “dactylogram,” “academese” and “cabaret” – eliminated three contestants in a row right before her, she let out a tiny, scared gasp upon stepping up to the microphone.

“I feel you,” said D’Aquila, a former state champion speller who spent much of her time at the podium joking with the spellers to ease their fears.

Isabelle, the runner-up, experienced the day’s moment of highest drama when, in the seventh round, she let an interjection of “Oh!” slip into her spelling of “laterigrade.”

The judges rang their bell signalling a misspelling, but after Isabelle protested, they listened to the tape and allowed her to continue.

On the verge of winning at one point and asked to spell “bastide” – a village or town in France built especially for defense – she showed she had learned her lesson.

“B-A-S-T-um,” she said, then added quickly, “that wasn’t a letter.”

“No, not in any language we’re working with here,” D’Aquila quipped.

While Hannah clutched her awards and talked to reporters after the event, mom Kirby Steady declared that she had one more prize coming: a pardon from her nightly chore of washing the dinner dishes.

The day began with a little last-minute studying of the official word list, then a written test. Hannah was one of 36 spellers who performed well enough on the test to move onto the big stage for the oral competition.

Another contender, Garima Rastogi, who is a first-grader at Green Valley Montessori Learning Center in Pembroke, stood barely up to the shoulders of her competition. The Concord girl often fidgeted in her chair onstage, spelling her competitors’ words on her hands while she waited for her turn, and she received one of the loudest ovations for her achievements after she misspelled a word in the seventh round.

A series of Afrikaans words, with their Dutch origins and odd pronunciations, made quick work of the fifth round, knocking out three consecutive contestant. “Muishonds,” a type of African weasel, and “galjoens,” a type of fish, had better watch out in case these students travel abroad and carry grudges.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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