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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — P-E-R-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-E paid off for spelling bee champ Alyssa Binosa on Saturday.

The Landstuhl Elementary/Middle School seventh-grader didn’t have to spell the word synonymous with determination, but she probably could have.

After finishing second at last year’s European PTA Spelling Bee Final, Alyssa drilled harder and longer in pursuit of this year’s spelling bee crown and a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in June.

But topping the 37-strong field of the best Department of Defense Dependents Schools spellers in grades three through eight from across Europe was no cinch.

Going word-to-word with Alyssa for 13 nerve-wracking rounds was Andrew Sekerak, a sixth-grader at David Glasgow Farragut Elementary School in Rota, Spain.

After third-place finisher Heather Miska, a sixth-grader at Schweinfurt Middle School, misspelled "ecru" in Round 13, the only spellers left standing on the Ramstein Elementary School stage were Alyssa, 13, and Andrew, 11.

"Eulogy." "Protocol." "Patel." Both spellers seemed unflappable. "Thesaurus." "Egalitarian." "Geranium."

Ten rounds later, when neither contestant showed any signs of faltering, the bee’s pronouncer told the judges that she was going to jump ahead to more challenging words.

"Antiquity." "Linguist." "Recyclable." They weren’t stumped yet.

But, in Round 26, Andrew stumbled on "ethanol." Alyssa earned the win by correctly spelling "attendant" and the championship word, "punctual."

"‘Oh my gosh, that was so easy,’" she said she thought about the final word.

Now that her sights are set on the national bee, Alyssa said she’s excited but "kind of nervous, since I’m expecting the words to be harder."

Last year’s national spelling championship word was "Laodicean."

The European PTA, which with sponsors funds the trip to Washington for the Europe spelling bee champion and a companion, gave Alyssa a study aide as part of her winnings: a Merriam-Webster dictionary to help send her on her way.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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