LEAVITTSBURG - A hush fell over the LaBrae High School auditorium as Elias Kondolios spelled aloud "C-r-o-e-s-u-s."
With the last letter, the 13-year-old Howland Middle School student claimed first place in the 23nd annual Tribune Chronicle Scripps National Spelling Bee on Monday night.
Elias out-spelled two-time champion Rebekah Stanhope, 14, of Joseph Badger Middle School, in the 35th round of the bee after Rebekah slipped on the word "pizzicato."
The two went head-to- head for 21 rounds of words after third-place finisher Daniel Campbell, 13, of Lincoln K-8 School, was bested by "concerto" in Round 13.
Throughout the bee, Elias could be seen tracing words on his arm with a finger as he prepared to spell. He said that the technique helps him remember the proper spelling.
"If I didn't study, none of this would have happened," Elias said.
Tribune Chronicle General Manager F. Len Blose, right, presents the 2014 Tribune Chronicle Scripps National Spelling Bee championship trophy to Elias Kondolios, 13, an eighth-grader at Howland Middle School and six-time spelling bee competitor. Photo by R. Michael Semple
He and his mother, Zenovia Kondolios, began studying at the start of spelling bee season by going through the lists of words organized by origins.
"She's the other reason for this," Elias said of his mother.
Zenovia said they reviewed words "as many times as physically possible" for this, his last chance at the bee before he ages out.
The competition was Elias' sixth attempt at a win. He began competing as the youngest student in the Tribune Chronicle's Spelling Bee's history while in first grade.
"His feet dangled a foot from the floor; he had to jump to get out of the chair," Zenovia said.
The bee was put on by the Tribune Chronicle in partnership with Kent State University at Trumbull.
"Every year for the past 14, I am reminded of why I volunteer my time to be a judge at this competition,'' Tribune Chronicle General Manager F. Len Blose said. ''I see a group of challengers who come to compete with each for one of the top spots, but I also see each student up there competing and challenging themselves.''
Blose acted as a judge during the competition and said he found the students' decision-making impressive.
"There will be a word that sounds like it begins with 'v' and it actually starts with a 'w,' and they know," he said.
Elias will be attempting to keep his v's and w's straight when he ventures to Washington, D.C., this May to compete in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee and enjoy a week of sight-seeing. Asked if he is nervous about facing the national competition, Elias answered, "I get to go to Washington. Who cares!"
Along with a spot in the national bee, Elias won a Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, a 2013 United States Proof Set from Mr. Jay Sugarman in honor of his father, and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium donated by Encyclopaedia Britannica.