KINGSTON, Jamaica – H-Y-P-O-G-E-U-S-I-A!
That’s the word 12-year-old Tajaun Gibbison spelled correctly to win the 2014 Gleaner’s Children’s Own Spelling Bee championship.
Hypogeusia, which means a reduced ability to taste things, did not prove to be a challenge for the young speller as he reeled off the definition of the word for the judges and spellmaster Clive Lai with confidence.
Without getting a word wrong, Gibbison staved off stiff competition from 13 other parish champions to pull off an impressive win.
“I really expected this win, so it’s nothing too exuberant for me. But I am very glad that God provided me with a chance and I capitalized on it,” Gibbison stated.
The second-form Knox College student said winning the trophy had been a dream of his for several years. He got his first taste of the competition when he entered at 10 years old in 2011.
Gibbison was to enter again last year, but did not manage to make it past the parish finals; however, he said he regrouped, got a different coach in the form of the Rev. Glen Archer, and dedicated more time to practicing.
“I had an even better program now, [and] with the influence I got, I came up here with the goal to win,” the champion speller said.
For his coach, Archer, there was no doubt that Gibbison would have been a top contender for the coveted trophy.
He told The Gleaner earlier that day that it would go down to the wire, between Kingston’s Chaunte Blackwood and Gibbison. And that’s how the day’s events panned out.
Archer, who trained six of this year’s parish finalists, including Blackwood, heaped high praises on Gibbison for his work ethic and noted that he was expecting greater things from the young speller at the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition later this year in Washington, D.C.
“I see a winner. If not, I see him placing in the top five,” the veteran coach said confidently.
Archer said Gibbison’s penchant for learning the meaning of words will work in his favor on the international stage, as that is crucial to retaining the barrage of words that he will be required to know in a short period of time.
Gibbison’s mother, Yvonne Gibbison, said she was overjoyed and expected great things from her son.
“We left Clarendon for it (the trophy), and we would not go back to Clarendon without it!” the doting mother exclaimed.
St Catherine’s Javane Thompson, Trelawny’s Lariecia Harvey, and Joshua Grant from St Andrew rounded out the top five contestants.