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Grown-ups weave their spell

The Typographical Airers erred the least and turned out to be the bee-st of the Suffolk Education Foundation’s 4th Annual Grown-Up Spelling Bee, winning the title for the second time.

The Suffolk News-Herald’s trio — Tracy Agnew, Alex Perry and Jen Jaqua — overcame strong challenges from the defending champions, The ArchiTexts from RRMM Architects, as well as the newcomers from the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, The Grammar Police.

Those three teams were the only ones to make it to the fourth round, but the defending champions were eliminated there, misspelling “inveigh.”

In the championship round, both The Grammar Police and the Airers could not get a handle on “rococo.”

The next word, however, stumped The Grammar Police, and the Airers swooped in to ensure that their Bee win two years ago was no aberration.

That included the costume contest, as the Airers won for the Jaqua-designed shirts of Rock (Jaqua), Paper (Agnew), and Scissors (Perry). Agnew’s T-shirt referenced “vassalage,” the word she misspelled that eliminated the Airers from last year’s Bee. It was also the second time the Airers picked up the costume award.

Unlike the Airers’ first Bee win, when they didn’t need to use any lifelines, they needed one in the third round. Unsure of how to spell calyx, they chose to sting The Grammar Police, who instead of being stung, gave themselves a ticket to the fourth round.

“Does ‘dumbfounded’ come to mind?” said David Miles of the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, laughing, when asked his reaction to his team having to spell that word.

And when they did, it gave the Airers’ team an air of distinct defeat.

“I was thinking, ‘Uh oh,” Agnew said, “because (Sheriff E.C. Harris) had told me they were a formidable team. So when they got that right, I was kind of stung, to be honest.”

However, The Grammar Police soon flubbed on “aberration,” and the Typographical Airers spelled it correctly to win the bee.

Thirteen teams went into Saturday bee-lieving they had a chance for the title. Six schools — Booker T. Washington Elementary, Kilby Shores Elementary, Creekside Elementary, John Yeates Middle, King’s Fork Middle and Nansemond River High — along with the You Know the S.A.O. team from Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III and staff, two teams from BayPort Credit Union, the Suffolk Business Women, Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, Suffolk News-Herald and RRMM Architects and Design Team Partners made up the field.

Miles thought his team would be eliminated sooner.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we’d get this far,” Miles said. “I’m ecstatic about the result. However, there were some very smart people on this stage when we began. There’s some tough words in there, a lot of surprises.”

Lewis Johnson of the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office said they were happy to take part.

“There was a lot of pressure, but I think we all came together and it was a team effort,” Johnson said.

Agnew said the newspaper appreciated the opportunity to support the teachers and students of Suffolk Public Schools, as was Miles and the sheriff’s office. The money raised from the Bee goes to the Suffolk Education Foundation and its efforts to support innovative programs and college scholarships.

“I know what this event means and how it benefits the students here in Suffolk, and the teachers here in Suffolk,” Miles said. “I would have supported it without participating, but to know that what we did today is pouring more back into this great school system, it makes it that much sweeter.”

Grown-Up Spelling Bee Winners

  • 2016: Kil-Bee’s Revenge of the Words, Kilby Shores Elementary School
  • 2018: Typographical Airers, Suffolk News-Herald
  • 2019: ArchiTexts, RRMM Architects and Design Team Partners
  • 2020: Typographical Airers, Suffolk News-Herald