CHARLESTON -- Normally, not much significance is paid to the word "velveteen."
Likely most often used in fabric-enthusiast circles, "velveteen" is defined as a type of cheaper cloth made to imitate velvet. On Friday, though, the word served a role beyond this definition.
"Velveteen" proved crucial in solidifying eighth-grader Hannah Stroud's win at the Mattoon Middle School Spelling Bee.
The bee was relatively short-lived. Some 59 Mattoon Middle School students qualified with about 40 or so actually in attendance to compete that afternoon.
Of that lot, a good many were taken out in the fourth and fifth rounds with words one might see only in a textbook or dense piece of literature, like "ruefully," "alabaster," "garbanzo," "clavicle," "chilblains" and "bronchitis." The Mattoon bee also included more oddball words like "fiddle-faddle," defined as nonsense, which got a callback from a student when he incorrectly spelled a word.
"Oh, fiddle-faddle," the student said as he sat back down.
Four were left standing in the seventh round, and Hannah correctly spelled "garrison," making her the last one remaining by the end of the round. She confirmed her victory by correctly spelling "velveteen."
"I actually had a little bit of trouble on the word I just won on," she said of her final word.
Hannah said the word made her slightly nervous. She remembered she had gotten the word wrong before when she practiced at home but wasn't 100 percent confident on the spelling. Nevertheless, she was right on Friday and nabbed her first Mattoon bee win.
Hannah was an alternate in last year's spelling bee and was able to participate in the Coles County Spelling Bee where she placed second behind Charleston student Kaeli Stewart.
This time around, Hannah said the words felt less challenging than in her previous spelling bee attempts.
"It was a little bit easier," she said. "I spent more time on studying."
This year, Hannah tried fun, unorthodox techniques when she studied to help keep the brain flowing. At the suggestion of her mother, Becky Stroud, Hannah said she would act as if she were making snow angels on the ground, dance or simply run around if she got a word wrong. Hannah said it was awesome.
"I figured that if I got her blood pumping, it would get her mind going," Becky Stroud said.
Hannah said she would quiz herself on the list of spelling bee words this year by writing it out or spelling it aloud at home, doing about 100 words a night.
Timothy Drake, 13, secured second place after a few rounds between him and the other two fighting for the three winning spots. He won with "espionage."
Timothy said he got hung up on a couple of the words he had throughout the bee.
"Some of them were confusing," he said. "Some of them I have never even heard of.
"I got lucky with 'wastrels.' My mind was going to 'way' but just started to think 'was.'"
Timothy felt fairly confident going in. He said he considers himself a good speller, noting he doesn't use auto spell check. He plans on studying more for the county bee.
Hannah and Timothy, as well as Garrett Miller, 12, who grabbed third place with the word, "Babylon," will be going to the Coles County Spelling Bee on Wednesday. Charliegh Curry, 12, will also be going as a reserve should one of the others not make it.
The county bee will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Crest Elementary School in Oakland. Competitors are asked to register at 6:10 p.m.
"I plan to study just as hard," Hannah said.
Kaeli, who won at last year's county bee, placed first again in the Charleston Spelling Bee last week and will be returning to the county level as well.
Whoever wins the county bee will go on to the regional competition in March in Decatur.