'Discrete' lifts St. Patrick's 7th-grader to victory


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ST. CROIX - It was a duel down to the last man standing at the St. Croix District Spelling Bee on Friday.

After round upon round among the three top spellers, and then between the top two, Aaron Harris ultimately emerged the winner, claiming the prize by correctly spelling "discrete."

When he realized he had finally won, the 11-year-old seventh-grader from St. Patrick's School held his arms up in victory and briefly celebrated the hard-fought win onstage at Juanita Gardine Elementary School, to a healthy round of applause.

"It feels good," Aaron said after the spelling bee was over. "It just feels like my hard work paid off, you know?"

Aaron said that one of the keys to his spelling success was that he had lots of family and friends cheering him on.

"They make me believe that I can win this," he said.

Friday's event featured 23 students from public, private and parochial schools squaring off for the title of district champ.

Most challengers were eliminated in the first few rounds.

After five rounds, only three spellers still were on stage: Aaron, Yad Bass and N'buri Alexander.

The three boys battled it out over the course of 14 more rounds, with one or the other periodically emerging as the front-runner, with a chance to win the championship, only to watch it slip away.

In Round 19, though, N'buri was eliminated on the word "acquittal," leaving Yad and Aaron to duel for the championship.

But before they got to Round 19, the three top contenders demonstrated their spelling chops, correctly spelling words such as voortrekker, uitlander and perestroika, among others.

After N'buri left the stage, to warm applause from the audience, Yad and Aaron duelled for two more rounds.

Ultimately, Aaron claimed the title with "discrete."

Aaron said his coach, Lydia Davis, had worked with him every day at lunch. At home, too, his family put him through the paces.

"They used to drill me on the words I got wrong," he said.

This is Aaron's second consecutive year to win the St. Croix District Spelling Bee.

Aaron's mom and dad, Percy and Paulina Harris, and his sister Naomi were at the bee, offering support.

They also quizzed him and worked with him in preparation for the bee, Percy Harris said.

"That's the thing," he said. "We want to see our kids move on, in terms of giving them the support and materials and whatever they need to move on with their education, because we realize education is the key."

Yad, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from John H. Woodson Junior High, said that coming in second place wasn't so bad because he still gets to compete in the Territorial Spelling Bee.

Last year, he won at the territorial level and went on to represent the Virgin Islands at the National Spelling Bee.

That is his goal again this year, he said.

"It will be even harder at the Territorial Bee, but I am going to make it," he said.

The top six students from each of the District Spelling Bees will go on to compete at the territorial level on March 8 on St. Croix, with the location to be announced later.

The top six spellers from St. Croix who will move forward to the Territorial Spelling Bee are:

1. Aaron Harris of St. Patrick's School.

2. Yad Bass of John H. Woodson Junior High.

3. N'buri Alexander of Church of God school.

4. Indeyah Todman of Lew Muckle Elementary School.

5. Tyanna Johnson of AZ Academy.

6. Amina Wallace of Elena Christian Junior High School.

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