GLOVERSVILLE - The 19th annual Fulton County Spelling Bee tested area students' skills in memorization and familiarity with the many silent consonants and strange vowel combinations in the words used in today's dictionary.
But after more than an hour and several rounds, the two finalists remaining from a 48-student competition spelled more than 20 words correctly before Wheelerville Union Free School seventh-grader Adam Ferrari won with the word "poinsettia."
Both Ferrari and the runner-up, Mayfield Elementary School sixth-grader Molly Lambo, were calm and collected as the pronouncer, Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger, threw them words like "pitchblende," "hacienda" "semolina" and "megalopolis" - all spelled correctly by the finalists.
2011 Spelling Bee winner Adam Ferrari spells 'poinsettia'.
This year was Ferrari's fourth attempt at the win. He placed fifth last year.
Now he will head to Washington, D.C., from May 29 to June 3, representing Fulton County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Ferrari credits a study routine for about the last month in which his parents helped him prepare six days a week.
Adam Ferrari of Wheelerville Union Free School in Caroga celebrates after winning the 2011 Fulton County Spelling Bee at Gloversville Middle School on Monday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"My mom and my dad - I give them both credit," Ferrari said, adding that Lambo was excellent competition and he hopes to see her next year at the bee.
One of the words he was given at the bee, "virtuosa," highlighted the importance of asking for the origin and the word in a sentence since the word easily could have been spelled as "virtuoso."
Ferrari said he was nervous he had spelled the word "saffron" incorrectly in the next-to-last round, but breathed a sigh of relief when Swanger said "correct."
Beaming with pride, his parents, Robert and Cyndee Ferrari, joined Adam on the stage after the event as he was presented with his prizes, including a full-size dictionary, a one-year subscription to an online encyclopedia and dictionary, and an Amazon.com gift card.
Ferrari also was presented with a savings bond, a scholarship established by three-time county spelling bee winner Thomas Steele of Mayfield. Steele established the scholarship in memory of his late grandfather. The award is presented to each year's winner.
The Leader-Herald, which sponsors the county bee, will pay for Ferrari and one of his parents to stay in Washington and compete.
"We're very proud of him. This is the first time his mother is speechless," said Cyndee, laughing. "He definitely deserves it and earned it."
Ferrari's teacher at Wheelerville, Lynn Lair, said Ferrari has scored 100 percent on every spelling test in sixth and seventh grade.
"He's just a very focused and talented student," Lair said.
Ferrari said he's never been to the nation's capital and is looking forward to seeing the Washington Monument and the White House, and seeing other landmarks.
Before the competition began, Leader-Herald Publisher Patricia Beck reminded all of the students on stage to relax and have fun.
"If you are here, it's because you are a winner," Beck told the students. "That is the only thing I want you to keep in your mind all evening."
The Leader-Herald began sponsoring the countywide competition 19 years ago. Before that, students had to compete in Schenectady, Beck said.
Knox Junior High School eighth-grader Hannah Chamberlain placed third. Northville Central School fifth-grader Northern McCullough and Gloversville Middle School sixth-grader Tarra McGillis tied for fourth place.
Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org