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Belmont County spelling champ gets additional reward in check

Belmont Savings Bank comes through after event canceled

Tyler Harris, the 2020 Belmont County Spelling Bee champion, receives a special monetary reward Friday, presented by Belmont Savings Bank because COVID-19 restrictions canceled the national bee and Tyler’s planned trip to Washington, D.C. Shown from left are Stephanie Harris, Tyler’s mother; Tyler, a seventh-grader at St. Mary’s Central in St. Clairsville; and his father, Steve Harris. Behind them from left are Lisa Stupak of East Central Ohio Educational Service Center, Mark Nicholson of Belmont Savings Bank and Amber Toriseva of ECOESC.

BRIDGEPORT — When Tyler Harris won the Belmont County Spelling Bee last February, he had high hopes for his planned trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, that adventure was not to be.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was not held as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus. Scripps cited state and federal recommendations against large gatherings as it canceled plans to hold the contest during the week of May 24. Scripps said it would try to reschedule for later this year, but that has not occurred.

As a result, Belmont County’s champion speller was not able to attend the national bee. As winner of the 2020 Belmont County Spelling Bee, Harris was to represent the county during a trip that was to include shuttle service to Pittsburgh and transportation via Amtrak to the nation’s capital for Harris, a parent and a teacher/coach. He took home a $500 cash prize, first-place trophy, Merriam-Webster Unabridged online certificate, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a plaque with the two winning words for school display, the Traveling Trophy for school display, and a one-year subscription to the Britannica Online Premium.

The county bee and the associated awards were sponsored by The Times Leader, Belmont Savings Bank, Bordas & Bordas, Uniglobe/Ohio Valley Travel, Martins Ferry Elks, Airport Limousine and the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center.

Despite the disappointing change, Harris accepted the fact that the national bee was canceled in a gracious manner. He even penned a letter to the county bee sponsors thanking them for the opportunity and expressing that he looks forward to competing at the local level again this school year.

On Friday, Belmont Savings Bank gave Tyler an additional $500 check as a special reward for winning the 2020 Belmont County Spelling Bee. Bank representatives said the institution wanted to give Tyler something because he didn’t get to go and compete in the nation’s capital.

District bees already are underway in Belmont County this fall, determining participants in the 2021 Belmont County Spelling Bee, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Skyliner in Bridgeport. Some bees have been delayed and rescheduled due to rising COVID-19 cases and schools shifting to remote learning, but preparations for the county bee continue.

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