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Vocabulary bee tests erudition

TUMWATER - Daniel Sebring, 13, a Reeves Middle School seventh grader, shouldn't suffer from "obloquy," even after being stumped by that word during the state championship of Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge vocabulary bee.

He and the other nine finalists were given multiple choices to finish a sentence that contained the word - which means "verbal abuse" or "disgrace resulting from verbal abuse." Many adults in the audience at Mountain View Church of the Nazarene in Tumwater on Monday also looked confused.

"Obloquy?" Sebring said. "I couldn't get 'Obvious obloquy.' "

Fifty students from throughout the state came to Tumwater to compete in the vocabulary bee, said organizer Kevan Hagen, teacher-librarian at Bush Middle School.

To compete in Monday's bee, students had to come out on top of their classes at each school and then take a qualifying online test.

The sixth, seventh and eighth graders were competing in the state Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge for the chance to represent Washington at the National Championship on May 13 to 15 at Sea World in Orlando, Florida. At stake in Florida is $25,000 in scholarship money for the winner.

Unlike a spelling bee, which has students spelling words until they are eliminated, all the competitors had a crack at the multiple choice questions, and their points were tallied at the end.

Competitors tend to be voracious readers, Hagen said.

"To get to this level, they have to have an above-average reading ability," he said.

Finalists at Monday's vocabulary bee said they didn't memorize lists of words.

"I read a lot of books," said Karen Bosshart, 15, who attends eighth grade at Buena Vista Seventh Day Adventist school in Auburn. She said that she's represented her school in a spelling bee, but that the vocabulary quiz was much easier because it was multiple choice.

Reeves' Sebring competed in the vocabulary bee last year, and just missed the championship rounds by being ranked number 11. This year, he made the top 10.

"I wanted to see if I could do better than I did," he said.

He said he didn't spend a lot of time preparing, though the night before he read through his high-school age sisters' vocabulary textbooks, he said. He got 21 out of a possible 25 points in the championship rounds. Next year he's aiming to come out on top, he said.

After the championship rounds, homeschooled Camas sixth-grader Genny Billington, 11, came out on top with 22 points.

Billington said she reviewed Latin roots - which form the basis of many modern words - the night before the competition.

She said she would do a lot more reviewing of those words before the nationals in May.

"I'm going to memorize all the Latin roots that I can," she said.

Top 10 and their hometowns

Champion: Genny Billington, Camas

(The rest in alphabetical order.)

Micaela Baca, Anacortes

Karen Bosshart, Auburn

Sunjay Cauligi, Vancouver

Tobias Osterhaug, Mountlake Terrace

Taylor Schmitt, Bothell

Daniel Sebring, Olympia

Michael Stein, Ellensburg

Nadine Stone, Battle Ground

Riley Wilk, Carnation

Source: Kevan Hagen, Bush Middle School teacher-librarian and Washington Reader's Digest Word Power Challenge coordinator

Test your vocab:

Sample questions:

1. To cause chaos is to _____ havoc.

A. wreak

B. reek

C. wreck

D. rack

2. A one-sided surface known as a Mobius strip is constructed by torsion which means it has been

A. trimmed.

B. flattened.

C. forced.

D. twisted.

* Words used at Monday's bee:

Humus

Obloquy

Cumbrous

Disposed

Blasphemous

Anilines

More test questions: www.rd.com/nwpc/openPractice

Questions.do

Answers: 1. A; 2. D.

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