A Jefferson student didn't have to be a thespian to take the stage at SUNY Oneonta on Saturday _ but she did have to spell it.

Eighth-grader Mary Mitsopoulos got the word right in a school spelling bee about a month ago to earn the right to take the stage with 22 other students who will participate in the ninth annual Regional Spelling Bee.

The event, which starts at 10 a.m. at the college's Goodrich Theater, is sponsored by The Daily Star, Otsego Northern Catskills and Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and State University College at Oneonta.

The winner will receive an all-expense-paid trip, along with a chaperone, to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on June 1 and 2.

Mary said she was familiar with "thespian," which means an actor or actress, because she reads a lot.

"It's kind of exciting" to be appearing with the other spellers, she said.

She is trying to relax by reading and not thinking about it because she has already done so much studying from word lists, she said.

"I hope to get to the next level, but whatever happens, it has been a valuable experience," she said. "I got to expand my vocabulary."

There will be a panel of four pronouncers and judges at the event: Hartwick College assistant professor of English Julia P. Suarez Hayes; SUNY Delhi associate professor of English, humanities, Kirby Olsen; SUNY Oneonta associate professor of physics and astronomy Paul French; and senior U.S. lexicographer for Oxford University Press and Daily Star columnist Christine Lindberg.

Walton Central School sixth-grader Kaitlyn Escobar spelled "impudent" in her school competition to earn the right to compete.

"It feels good," she said, but she's "a little nervous."

If she doesn't make it all the way, with all the studying she has done, "I have tried my best," she said.

Daily Star Publisher Armand Nardi will provide the welcoming remarks and instructions for contestants.

The newspaper is "proud to sponsor a tradition that encourages young minds to compete and excel academically," he said. "Since Frank Neuhaser's victorious spelling of 'gladiolus' to win the first national spelling bee in 1925, newspapers have partnered with Scripps to keep the annual tradition alive. We are an industry that recognized the importance of the written word _ most importantly the written word spelled correctly."

He will be joined in the awards ceremony by Stacie Haynes, coordinator of enrichment services at DCMO BOCES.

"It's one of the opportunities that students have outside of athletics to really shine outside of the classroom," though some participate in both, she said. The partnership between the various sponsoring agencies is an important factor in keeping the spelling bee alive.

Among those who will be taking the stage is Rose Luscomb, a sixth-grader from Downsville Central School. She won by spelling "lugubrious," a word she didn't know before, but learned while studying from the lists provided by high school teacher Gretchen Blynt. Spelling is a strong subject for her in school. She likes to read, with favorite authors being Christopher Pike and Stephen King and that certainly helps her, she said.

Morris Central School seventh-grader Maggie Ernst spelled "anthropology" to earn her place on stage. She has been studying regularly from a variety of sources with her father. She was the only person interviewed who was in the contest last year, which should be helpful in dealing with the stress of being on stage, she said.

"It's nice to be able to represent the school," she said, "but it would be nice to win."

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