The Dorchester District 2 Spelling Bee was decided by one thing Thursday: the letter E.
The bee, which started with 52 spellers, was down to the final two when Rollings Middle School of the Arts sixth-grader Razeen Basunia was given the word “salve” to spell.
Basunia spelled “S-A-L-V” into the microphone, which then popped.
The judges ruled it a misspelling, then left the room with bee coordinator Elizabeth Rabb for about four minutes to listen to a tape recording.
When they came back, they upheld their decision, and defending champion Cassidy Etue, a River Oaks Middle School seventh-grader, went on to spell the word correctly as Basunia, still sitting on stage, threw his hands into the air.
Etue then correctly spelled “patel” to reclaim her crown.
Afterward, Rabb said she went with the judges in case there were questions, but “(the recording) was very clear. The judges went back there (to listen again) to make sure because they want to give the benefit of the doubt. That’s why we stress over and over and over, you speak into the microphone ... and say it clearly.”
The judges for the competition were school board member Gail Hughes, district literary interventionist Theresa Blitch and district science interventionist Kelly Shroder. Lisa Cuthbert was the pronouncer.
Rabb said there is no appeals process and the results will stand.
Basunia, who won the Butler County (Kan.) Spelling Bee in 2011 and was a member of Fort Dorchester Elementary School’s quiz bowl team last year, insisted afterward that he had spelled the word correctly.
“Everybody knows this was not fair,” said his mother, whose name was not available.
Etue, a daughter of Dan and Angie Mazurek, said she was surprised that she reclaimed the title.
“As long as I didn’t get out in the first round, I was OK,” she said. She has been studying for the bee, but had doubts about some of the words given to her Thursday.
“I would go with my first way of thinking of how the word was spelled, and it worked out pretty well,” she said.
The top nine finishers will advance to Spellbound!, the Lowcountry’s regional spelling bee, sponsored by The Post and Courier.
They are, in order of finish, Etue, Basunia, Kaya Clavier of Newington Elementary, Arianna Varnes of Alston Middle, Sam Towe of Gregg Middle, Matthew Robinson of River Oaks Middle, Alex Blount of Gregg Middle, Ashley Wilson of DuBose Middle and Casimir Karpinski of Oakbrook Middle.
The competition will be held at 7 p.m. March 6 at Lightsey Chapel at Charleston Southern University and will include 50 finalists representing Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester 2, Dorchester 4, Colleton County, Lowcountry Catholic Schools, the South Carolina Independent School Association and Lowcountry Home and Private Schools.
The winner of Spellbound! will get an all-expenses-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is May 26 through June 1 in Washington, D.C.