The word Joey Haavik spelled correctly to win the Howard County spelling bee


Joey Haavik likes to be on stage. Over the summer, he was Daddy Warbucks in a drama camp production of Annie. And Friday night, he basked in attention as photographers snapped pictures and friends and family offered congratulations.

Joey, 10, a fifth-grader at Pointers Run Elementary School, had defeated 50 other contestants to win the second Howard County Library Spelling Bee.

The winning word was "Zoroastrian," which Joey, wearing a striped blue and gray rugby shirt, reeled off with no problem. "I just knew it, I remembered from studying," he said. "I think it's like some religion."

He's right. The dictionary defines Zoroastrian as an adherent of an ancient religion founded by the Persian prophet Zoroaster. The main belief is that there is a cosmic contest between a good spirit and an evil spirit.

Good and evil had nothing to do with Joey's success in the spelling bee. He simply worked hard, his mother and his teacher said.

"Some of it was grueling," said Marie Haavik. "There were times when he was getting frustrated, but we didn't give up. I think it was a good lesson about studying and how it does pay off."

Joey said his father, Larry, and sister, Ashley, a senior at River Hill High School, also helped.

Joey had been focused on the regional bee since he won his school's spelling bee Jan. 17. He set a goal of learning the entire 5,000-word Paiedia, the book that served as the official study guide for the contest. He said he didn't quite finish the guide, but clearly he reached the "Z" pages. "I think we still had a couple of pages to go," he said.

"I think it's important," Joey said of the spelling bee. "It helps people improve their vocabularies. It can help you to write, kind of. It's a very good learning experience for everyone."

During the contest, he was nearly stumped by "gorse," a word that he did not recall. He went with his instinct, he said, and spelled the word, meaning a spiny bush, correctly.

Matt Noon, his homeroom teacher, said Joey took studying for the bee seriously and enlisted his friends to help during the day when he had finished his classwork. Nobody had to push him to memorize all those words -- he wanted to do it.

"What made it so cool was that he took an interest in it himself," Noon said. He added that Joey is "amazingly capable," a good student and a kind friend to others in the class.

Noon, who attended the bee, said it was interesting to hear his young pupil spell words that he didn't recognize.

"I gave up trying to figure whether I was spelling them correctly -- in my head -- I had no clue," he said.

As for Zoroastrian, "I never heard that word," Noon said.

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