VICENZA, Italy -- After 16 rounds, with almost 180 words given out, seventh-grader Asenath Wetzel went on to spell "seafaring" and "prominent" that were the last two words at the eighth annual Vicenza Elementary/Middle School Championship Spelling Bee.

With these words she became the winner of this annual competition held in the Villaggio multipurpose room Jan. 24.

Twenty contestants competed in the finals of the event, which was sponsored by the Vicenza Parent Teacher Student Association. A previous selection took place Jan. 17, and the top 10 participants of each group advanced to the championship.

Vicenza Middle School seventh-grader Cheyenne Larson took second place, and sixth-grader Rion Buenavente came in third.

As with previous editions, teacher George Hanby acted as the official "word pronouncer" after the welcome from ES/MS principals, Allison Peltz and Stephanie El Sayed.

Also, PTSA Representative Mary Powell and Spelling Bee Sponsors Trina Downey and Teresa Taylor were on board, while official spelling bee judges were: Dr. Noni Hoag, District ELA ISS; Beth Potter, school liaison officer; retired Col. Craig Cotter; and Capt. Ariel Castro from 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Most of the contestants, including elementary students, battled up to round 10 and were excited about competing with words such as "labyrinthine," "parenthetical" and "incongruous." During that round, second-grader Shaun Ingram, from Downey's class, was challenged with "vicissitudes."

He missed it; nevertheless, he was the last second-grader who made it up to round 10.

"I had a great experience in the spelling bee," said Ingram. "I studied every day, and my hard work and dedication paid off. (I) placed 10th overall among the middle and elementary schools. I learned how to set a goal and work towards it by studying a little bit every night," he added.

All competitors were motivated and gave their best.

Cheyenne Larson was proud that she placed second in this year's championship.

"I didn't just study the list words, I also studied words not on the list and I used words that I'd heard before that were challenging," she said.

While getting close to the final rounds, this year's winner (Wetzel) had mixed feelings about her accomplishment.

"I was feeling excited and scared during the final two rounds," she said, "I felt proud when I won because I had really studied hard for the bee. Besides studying the bee grade-level lists, I also read a lot of books so I could find new words to study."

Other participants explained that parents had a vital role in assisting in preparing for the event.

One of them is third-place winner Buenavente, who felt happy about his achievement.

"I promised my family that I would be one of the top three winners and I did it," he said.

"The reason I got to the top three is because my parents quizzed me to help me get prepared, and I am really thankful they did, because I would not have been in the top three without them," Buenavente added.

VES students such as Charlotte Bonser, fourth grade, thought that this year's spelling bee was a great opportunity.

"I truly think it was harder this year, competing against other great spellers. I studied for many months, and I just got nervous during the spelling bee. But I know that I have improved so much," explained Bonser.

Sixth-grader Michael Belfer also remarked that this year it was a little more challenging than last year.

"I would say for future spellers to breathe in and out before spelling the word and always take your time to spell the word," he recommended after the event.

Also, an additional tip for future spellers comes from second-grader Luis Ortiz.

"When I was in the finals I was nervous but proud of myself for getting this far. Participants should try reading more books because it helps you learn more challenging words," he said.

As winner, Wetzel is eligible to represent both schools in the European PTSA Spelling Bee in Ramstein, Germany, in March. Larson is the alternate in case Wetzel is not able to represent Vicenza in Germany.

The winner of the DoDDS European Regional Bee goes on to represent DoDDS-Europe in the National Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington in May.

Spelling Bee finalists:
FIRST PLACE: Asenath Wetzel (7th)
SECOND PLACE: Cheyenne Larson (7th)
THIRD PLACE: Rion Buenavente (6th)
FOURTH PLACE: Michael Belfer (6th)
FIFTH PLACE: Anna Ovsijenko (6th)
SIXTH PLACE: Charlotte Bonser (4th)
SEVENTH PLACE: Elizabeth Clover (7th)
EIGHTH PLACE: Chege Kaba (5th)
NINTH PLACE: Justice Miller (7th)
TENTH PLACE: Shaun Ingram (2nd)
Driston Dowling (2nd)
Peter Donigan (8th)
Luis Ortiz (2nd)
Jacob Lee (7th)
Louis Albers (8th)
Sofia Gundersen (5th)
Grace Diaz (4th)
Jaxson DeLuca (2nd)
Sarah Downes (2nd)
James Bartholomees (6th)