D-E-B-A-C-L-E at spelling bee

February 7, 2009 5:00:50 PM PST
Sixth-grader Morgan Sims knew how to spell "debacle," but she got an unfortunate lesson on its meaning when her northern Arkansas school district forgot a spelling bee entry fee. [SIGN UP: Get bizarre news sent to you]

Morgan correctly spelled "debacle" -- meaning failure, in an often ludicrous way -- to win the Craighead County Spelling Bee on Friday, taking home the first-place trophy and a $200 savings bond.

But her school forgot to pay a $100 per-building entry fee to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, said Craighead County School District coordinator Sandra Taylor. The upfront fee is optional for the county bee but is required to advance to the state competition.

"She won the county. I'm proud of that," superintendent George Edd Holland told The Jonesboro Sun newspaper. "It's unfortunate she can't compete at the next level.

He didn't know why the junior high building was the only one registered. "I was caught off guard. I assumed we were fully eligible," Holland said. He added all buildings will be from now on.

Morgan, who attends Buffalo Island Central's West Elementary School, told the newspaper she was excited for her victory after making the second round in the county bee last year.

"I was here last year and was hoping to win. I'm so glad I did," she said.

The second-place finisher is heading to the state compeition instead. Elizabeth Kaffka, a fifth-grader at Valley View Intermediate, seemed a bit blase about her sudden turn of fortunes.

"I think I will spend the rest of the day playing my video games," she said after the contest. "Maybe Pokemon."

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