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Duncan spelling dynasty continues
Jazz Duncan beats out little sister for 2012 RCPS Spelling Bee Championship
The 2012 Rockdale County Spelling Bee at Edwards Middle School on Tuesday. - photo by Bryan Fazio

 The winning word at the 2012 Rockdale County Spelling Bee Tuesday was spelled D-U-N-C-A-N.

For the fifth straight year a Duncan claimed first place, and just as impressively one Duncan had to beat another to do it.

Jazz Duncan, a seventh-grader at Memorial Middle School, correctly spelled "abduction" for her second-straight win in a bee filled with several contentious moments involving the pronunciation of caller Marion Hanahan, the RCPS 2011 Teacher of the Year.

Zora was the first speller in the last pairing, which lasted 26 final rounds and finally ended when she tripped up on the word "erasable"

Prior to "erasable" and "abduction" Zora was given the word "lectern," and went back and forth with Hanahan due to lack of understanding over his pronunciation through the microphone at Edwards Middle School.

After finally understanding the word that was being given to her, Zora, the Flat Shoals Elementary fourth-grader, spelled it l-e-c-t-u-r-n. Her sister, Jazz, then had a chance at the win, but spelled it l-e-c-k-t-u-r-n, so the round continued.

It was the second time one of the sisters had a chance to claim the crown.

The first one came after Jazz spelled the word "ghastly" without the "h" and Zora went on to get the correct spelling. With a chance to win, Zora incorrectly spelled the word "docent" with an s before the c.

"We were just hoping one of us would come in first and second place, or maybe tied if possible," Zora said.

It's the fifth consecutive year a Duncan has taken home the RCPS Bee trophy. It's also the second year two Duncans swept the top two spots in the finals; Jazz lost to older brother Jaire in 2011. Jaire, himself, is a three-time champion.

Jaire, Jazz and Zora along with a younger brother, all practice together, and often during car trips.

"We all practice together," Jazz said. "There's four of us we just sit and spell together."

That spelling environment is nurtured by their mother Heather Duncan.

"They push each other," Heather said. "We live in a literature rich house, and we encourage a lot of reading, spelling and grammatical things."

Heather, along with her husband, speaks with an island accent; one Jazz and Zora do not share. That may be the key to the Duncan children's spelling success.

"We have a thick accent, but we were taught under the British system, so we emphasize proper pronunciation," Heather said. "We give them alternate pronunciations, telling them ‘This is the way we say it, and this is the way they say it in the American system.'"

Jazz and Zora took the tutelage of their parents, and have been working hard at refining it in the weeks leading up to the spelling bee, pushing each other in order to top the county.

"They go at each other," Heather said. "I was looking forward to seeing them together at the final two."

She got just that chance after Austin Goodloe of Barksdale Elementary was eliminated, paving the way for the sister-versus-sister finale.

However, that chance almost didn't come when Zora was eliminated after misspelling the word "phylum" in the third round. Directly following the misspelling, Heather protested that her daughter spelled the word she heard, "phyla."

Heather said that there was discrepancy between Zora and the caller as to what each other were saying. The protest was ruled in Zara's favor, and on her next word, "epilepsy," there was no confusion and she spelled it correctly.

From there, the two Duncans rolled into the final, despite the enhanced difficulty as the day wound on.

"I think it was tougher than last year," Jazz said. "Because they went into words we haven't seen before."

 Jazz will go on to represent RCPS in the District Spelling Bee on Feb. 25. The winner of that bee will compete in the state Spelling Bee on March 16, at Georgia State University, for the chance to move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.




UPDATE: Two Duncan siblings, Zora and Jazz, battled it out in 22 nail-biting final rounds of the 2012 RCPS Spelling Bee. Despite overcoming issues understanding the speaker's pronounciation of the words, it was the word "erasable" that tripped up Flat Shoals Elementary fifth grader Zora and the word "abduction" that became the winning word for Jazz Duncan of Memorial Middle School.

Jazz also won last year's RCPS Spelling Bee, beating out older brother Jaire Duncan, now a freshman in the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology.

Check back for more information.


(Feb. 6) Rockdale County Public Schools' top spellers face off on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 9:30 a.m., at Edwards Middle School for the chance to represent the county at the regional and then state spelling bee.

The winners at the individual elementary and middle schools, who will participate in the RCPS Spelling Bee, and the runners up (who will particpate if the winner is unable to), are as follows:


Barksdale Elementary
Austin Goodloe, Winner
Jordin Joseph, Runner Up

C. J. Hicks Elementary
Renee Phillip, Winner
John Thompkins, Runner Up

Flat Shoals Elementary
Zora Duncan, Winner
Shakevia Harris, Runner Up

Hightower Trail Elementary
Aniyah Drammeh, Winner
Simone Thompson, Runner Up

Honey Creek Elementary
Sophie Mosley, Winner
Tara Jean-Louis, Runner Up

J.H. House Elementary
Nathan Sapp, Winner
Madison Woods, Runner Up

Lorraine Elementary
Noah Woodruff, Winner
Maria Scott, Runner Up

Peek's Chapel Elementary
Shanyla Sicheran, Winner
Kejuan Humpries, Runner Up

Pine Street Elementary
Rasheed Cameron, Winner
Kameron Black, Runner Up

Sims Elementary
Amy Liu, Winner
Niya Hadley, Runner Up

Conyers Middle
Kesean Williams, Winner
Kandice Abrams, Runner Up

Davis Middle
Jacob Whatley, Winner
Casey Symons, Runner Up

Edwards Middle
Serena Persuad, Winner
Najifa Hossain, Runner Up

Memorial Middle
Jazz Duncan, Winner
Yasin Saddique, Runner Up