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RHS grad wins national title

Recent Russellville High School graduate Jennifer Duncan spelled her way through two tests in Orlando, Fla., to snag the national championship medal in the 2010 HOSA Dental Spelling Bee.

A group of HOSA students went down to compete in a five-day long competition, which included 7,000 high school students from all over the nation competing in 32 categories.

Jennifer Duncan

Duncan, 18, won the state competition in the same category earlier this year against 11 participants, which sent her to the national competition.

The 2010 RHS graduate faced 57 competitors from across the United States and Puerto Rico in a written and oral test beating out a representative from Texas to take home the gold medal.

“It was really nice and exciting,” Duncan said. “There was about 3,000 people total there, but there were only 57 competing in my category. You had to pass a written test first to get to the final oral part. When it got down to me and the girl from Texas we were going back and forth for a long time until finally she missed one and I got two in a row right to win.”

Duncan said some of the words the judges even had a hard time trying to pronounce, but she was able to come away with the victory.

Duncan said the last word that won her the medal was “orthognathic,” which pertains to the human jaw.

“When I realized I had won I tried to hold it in and not be rude to the other people who had lost,” she said. “But I was really wanting to scream and jump up and down.”

Both tests were closed off to the public and Duncan’s mother, Amy, said she was peeping through a hole in the door to see what was going on.

“We were standing outside trying to look through a peep hole to see if she was still in the competition,” Amy said. “Once I saw that big grin on her face, that’s when I knew she had won.”

Duncan said once it was over she went to tell her mother the exciting news.

Amy Duncan said she was just overcome with excitement for her daughter.

“I just threw my arms around her and started hugging her,” Amy said. “We were really excited.”

RHS HOSA instructor Lavonda Sparks said she is really excited for Jennifer and had all the confidence in the world that she would do great at the national level.

“I believe it was a tremendous accomplishment for her,” Sparks said. “Jennifer and a student from Arab High School were the only two students who came away with the first place medals in their specified categories. We were all really proud of her. She was an excellent speller and I knew she was probably going to at least place, but winning first is just a tremendous accomplishment.”

Duncan is a member of the RHS Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society and has received a scholarship to Northwest-Shoals Community College for which she will pursue a career in pediatric nursing.

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