Shaquille outlasts St James rivals
Kerry-Ann Hepburn, Children's Own Coordinator
Montego Bay, St James:
From defending champion to youngest speller, 48 students came from all across St James to the Hollis Peter Lynch Building last Thursday to stand before spell mistress Marline Stephenson Dalley and their supporters.
They were all vying for the title of champion and to represent the parish at the national level in February of next year.
In front of one of the biggest audiences of the Bee this year, the first two rounds of the spelldown could be called perfection, as the rounds gave way to a third before there were any misspells.
More rounds down and it seemed like everyone was on their 'A' game, as the spellers were careful their letters came out correctly. One disappointing moment, though, was when defending champion Keshawn McGrath failed to advance to the top 10. It was now anyone's match.
After the top 10 was announced, it was evident that the pressure was on and anxiety got the better of some of the spellers, because not much later, only the top five were left standing.
To the delight of the audience, they were all boys, a sight unseen in quite some time.
Uchenna Njoku, last year's third-place finisher, was an obvious favourite to win, since the defending champion was out. But he also failed to move into the top three, leaving the competition in fourth place.
After the upset of Njoku's teary departure, Jhordayne Grey of Cornwall Prep took third, after misspelling D-Y-S-P-H-O-R-I-A.
Shaquille Chapman of John's Hall All-Age and D'Mario Patterson of Catherine Hall Primary, both first timers, were left to battle it out.
Back and forth they went, word after word, with neither willing to concede.
But then Patterson incorrectly spelled C-O-I-R, which Chapman would get correct before spelling the championship word, C-O-M-B-U-S-T-I-B-L-E.
The response from Chapman's supporters was thunderous as they celebrated his victory.
"I knew I could win," the new champion said as he held The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee trophy for St James.
His coach, Kayann Robinson, was overjoyed.
"Both spellers did extremely well, but Shaquille pushed himself and I am extremely proud," Robinson said.
She said the use of technology was very instrumental in preparing for the Bee.
"We use a programme called Spell City, where we put in some of the words from the book and that really helped because it is essentially a game and they enjoyed using it."
She also put forward that the written and oral methods worked as well.
Chapman, who is a part of his school's football and cricket teams, and an active member of his 4-H Club, has been nicknamed Superman, and is said, by his coach, to be self-motivated. His mother, Oliveen Reid, agrees.
"I try to push him and today I am overwhelmed."
This is John's Hall All-Age's first win at the parish level.
1. Shaquille Chapman, John's Hall All-Age
2. D'Mario Patterson, Catherine Hall Primary
3. Jhordayne Grey, Cornwall Prep
4. Uchenna Njoku, Cornwall College
5. Terron Francis, Eber Prep
Shaquille Chapman, John's Hall All-Age
Danielle Cole, Cornwall Prep