Spelling bee brings Catholic students together


COLUMBIA — Jackie McSorley, a fifth-grader from St. Joseph School, won this year’s Catholic Schools Spelling Bee with a word that would make Martha Stewart blush: tippee.

A tippee is one who receives a tip, especially in insider trading. Jackie won after fourth-grader Sherill Nelson from St. Martin de Porres School left off an “e.” It was the final spelling of “rhinestone” that gave McSorley her first-place trophy.

“I studied the beginner and intermediate words on the list,” Jackie said. “Tippee was an easy word for me because I remembered studying it.”

Six diocesan schools participated in this year’s competition held May 2 at the Richland County Public Library and organized by Madeline McMillion, principal of St. Peter School.

McMillion hopes that more schools will participate in next year’s spelling bee. She intends to sponsor it again.

“It served to unite the Catholic schools in the diocese and promote our academic excellence,” she said.

This year’s participants came from St. Anne in Rock Hill, St. Anthony in Greenville, St. John Neumann, St. Joseph, St. Martin de Porres and St. Peter, all in Columbia.

Each school brought its top two spellers in each grade from the fourth through sixth grades. All of the contestants were given a list of 700 words to study. The schools and students had unique ways of preparing for the bee. Second-place winner Sherill Nelson and classmate LeNisha Hughey spent hours on the phone quizzing each other.

Carole McCorkey practiced with her fourth-grade teacher at St. Peter, while Chandler Bobis, from St. John Neumann, received some help from his mother who quizzed him at home.

WIS radio news personality Gene McKay pronounced the words at the competition. He said the hardest part for him was telling the children they misspelled a word and having to see their disappointment.

“At 71 years of age, I thought I would have seen every word,” he said. “They had some very difficult spelling words for these children that I did not even recognize.”

Each contestant was given a dictionary, donated by the new Publix Supermarket in downtown Columbia. The three judges were Danny Dorsel, Cardinal Newman director of advancement; Dawn Henshaw, a reporter from The State newspaper; and Dr. Lyn Long, an educator.