Going all the way

Mar. 13—Fairland student to compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee in May

ROME TOWNSHIP — Back in December, Meredith Dunlap, a seventh grader at Fairland Middle School, scored a major accomplishment in the Lawrence County Spelling Bee, winning first place and being county champion for the second consecutive year.

But, on March 2, she achieved another victory, that is sending her to a chance to compete at the national level.

Dunlap competed and won as co-champion in the regional spelling bee, which was held at Ohio University and was open to all school winners from the area. And, with that title, she is now eligible to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland from May 26-31.

Dunlap is the first student in Fairland's history to go to national and only the second in Lawrence County to do so.

Symmes Valley graduate Felicity Jenkins competed in the national event in 2010, when she was a sixth grader.

Being named as co-champion is not the normal procedure for the spelling bee, but this had to be done when judges made a mistake in the final round, Angela Wireman, a teacher at the middle school and Dunlap's coach, said.

Dunlap was one of the last two spellers at the event, after seven rounds of spelling, along with Ryan Frazee, an eighth grader from Wheelersburg.

When Frazee and Dunlap both spelled words incorrectly, there should have been a new round and both participants beginning anew.

However, Frazee was given a word, which he spelled correctly, and named champion.

Wireman, who was at the event with Dunlap, said she was concerned it had been mishandled and contacted officials.

She was correct in her discernment and the organizers realized their error and, a few hours later, Dunlap was also named co-champion.

"It wasn't to take anything away from him," Wireman said of Frazee, stating it was the fair thing to do, as the proper round of spelling had not taken place and there was no way to say how it would have gone.

"We had an excellent Ohio Regional competition, with many great spellers coming to the university from across the state," Lamar Reams, of Ohio University's College of Business, who oversaw the bee, said. "After the conclusion of the Bee, my team of judges reviewed the records and found that we incorrectly sequenced the spelling of the final two participants. As a result, we decided to send both of the outstanding spellers (as co-champions) to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C."

So, as a result, both Dunlap and Frazee are now eligible to go to the national event.

Dunlap, the daughter of Maryanne and Brian Dunlap, was praised by her principal, Aaron Lewis, as a "kind and good kid."

"She comes from a long line of spellers and all her siblings excel," he said.

Dunlap's older sister, Molly, was a winner of her school bee and qualified to compete in the regional bee in 2020, but it was canceled, due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Her brother, Mitchell, also has a county trophy, being the overall winner of the county science fair in 2022.

Wireman says that Dunlap is "not just a good speller," but is also is involved in Quiz Bowl, student council and competes on the school's basketball and cross county track teams.

"She has such a laid-back personality, and doesn't panic when she's up there" Wireman said.

"I do!" Dunlap conceded, with a laugh.

"Well, you don't show it," Wireman said.

In preparation for this year's event, Dunlap said she is studying lists of words and she and her mom, who is a Fairland teacher, are using flash cards for practice.

She said she anticipates there will be vocabulary portion of this bee, which she has had some practice with.

Normally, school winners have to take an online test to qualify for regional and Dunlap saw part of the vocabulary portion there.

"They give you a word and you have multiple choice," she said of definitions.

The online test was shut down, due to technical issues this year, though, and all school winners were allowed to compete.

Others from Lawrence County who competed at regional were Landon DeHart, of South Point Middle School, who came in second at county, and Nova Russell, of Rock Hill.

Gretta Taylor, student services coordinator of the Lawrence County ESC, who oversees the county bee, said they are proud and excited for Dunlap.

"We always knew she was amazing and this proves it," Taylor said.

Dunlap said she is ready to go to the national completion and is working out travel plans.

"I'm just really excited and really thankful for the experience," she said.