‘Theomachy’ wins the spelling bee for Ronald Reagan middle schooler

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

To many, the word “theomachy” may seem archaic if they know it at all. Latin in origin, it’s defined as “a battle or strife among the gods” by Merriam-Webster.

For Peyton DeMichele though, it was pretty routine as she spelled it correctly to take home the top prize at Tuesday night’s 44th Prince William Spelling Bee.

“I was afraid that they’d give me a word I hadn’t studied,” the Ronald Reagan Middle School student said after her win.

That wasn’t the case all night, as DeMichele said she’d already studied the 11 words it took for her to be the last one standing Tuesday night. DeMichele beat out 40 other spellers, all of whom won the bee for their local elementary, intermediate or middle schools.

She’ll go on to compete with over 200 other regional champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the National Harbor in Maryland starting June 2. The national competition will be aired on ION and Bounce television network.

Ernestine Jenkins, right, presents winner Peyton DeMichele from Ronald Reagan Middle School with the spelling bee trophy. DeMichele will compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this summer. (InsideNoVa.com/Paul Lara)

While the words came pretty easily for DeMichele, the competition she faced was still stiff. By the eighth round, only three spellers remained of the original 41. After eight correct spellings, seventh grader Andy Dodd — representing the Home Organization of Parent Organizers — was tripped up by okapi, the name of a Congolese forest animal.

After that, DeMichele was head-to-head with George Hampton Middle School sixth grader Jairus Appiah, who’d impressively spelled words like heterochromia (meaning a difference in coloration in anatomical parts like eyes), discombobulate, rennet and ermine (a type of weasel found in North America and Eurasia). But Appiah couldn’t come up with the correct spelling for slumgullion (a beef stew dish similar to goulash) and Peyton clinched the win on theomachy.

Typically, DeMichele said, she studies words on the bus to school, reviews them after school and gets a quiz from her dad when she gets home. Through more than two hours of spelling Tuesday, she correctly spelled the words effortless, althorn, exaggerate, faux, cicada, bifurcate, marionette, perspicacious (of acute mental vision or discernment), biscotti, fondant and theomachy.

The spelling bee was presented by InsideNoVa and the Bel Air Woman’s Club.

“We congratulate these winners on their achievements during this challenging school year,” Club President Karen Attreed said at the start of the bee. “They are all winners whether they spell out early tonight or not.”

In 2021, Manassas Christian School eighth grader Keona Thomas took home the top prize at the spelling bee on 13 correct words. Thomas was Manassas Christian’s third straight winner.

DeMichele is the first winner from Prince William County Schools since Graham Park Middle School’s Simran Patibanda won the title in 2018. The plan from now until June won’t change much, DeMichele said.

“I think I will do even more studying, definitely,” she said. I don’t really know exactly what kind of studying I need to do, but I’ll do my best.

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