Four pupils declared zonal winners at National Spelling Championship

SINGAPORE - The top spellers in four school zones were declared on Saturday at the zonal round of The Big Spell.

Trumping their peers for the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship zonal champ titles were:

*In the north zone, at Woodlands Regional Library: Sng Hwee Woon, 11, Primary 6 pupil at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School.

*In the south zone, at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Media Centre: Goh Shen Ee Matthew, 12, Primary 6 pupil at Anglo-Chinese School (Primary).

*In the east zone, at Tampines Regional Library: Selina Peh Yuet Ning, 11, Primary 6 pupil at St Hilda's Primary School.

*In the west zone, at SPH News Centre: Jerome Thomas Ng Tze Loong, 10, a Primary 5 pupil from Henry Park Primary School.

In the fight to the top, to gasps of amazement and loud applause from the audience, they had cleared words such as "onomatopoeia", "pecuniary" and "excrescence".

The 113 pupils who competed on Saturday were the top spellers who made the cut from the 1,654 who sat the written preliminary round on March 7.

Across the four zonal venues, pupils and supporters watched a video tribute to the late founding Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and observed a minute of silence before the competition started.

Said Ms Serene Goh, editor of The Straits Times Schools: "As a mind sport, The Big Spell stands for diligence, honour, resilience and excellence - attributes that Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself stood for throughout his life. On Saturday, in four zones across the island, we simultaneously observed a moment of silence to remember not only his legacy, but the positive values he stood for."

In this round, competitors took their turn on stage to spell their given words letter by letter. Those who uttered a wrong letter would be eliminated.

The four winners each earned a spot in The Big Spell final next month, while the rest of the spellers will be ranked nationally by how far they progressed in this oral round. The top 20 or so pupils will vie for the championship title on April 25.

At stake are $5,000 and a trophy for the winner's school, while the second and third placed pupils will win $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

The annual competition is organised for the fourth year by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It is supported by the Institute of Technical Education College Central and the National Library Board, with Sports Hub Library and Suntec Singapore as venue partners. Volunteers from ITE College Central also helped as marshals at the event.

Follow The Big Spell competition at www.straitstimes.com/bigspell