After about two hours of spelling Saturday, officials running the Scripps South Jersey spelling bee used up their first list, and reached for a new sheet.

That’s how Eboseremhen “Ebose” Eigbe, 14, came to win his third regional championship in a row, by first spelling “crawdad,” and then, fittingly, “devour.”

The words on the second list tripped people up, organizer Brian Dunn said, because they were not expecting them. Instead, he said, participants come anticipating the polysyllabic tongue-twisters more commonly associated with spelling bees.

“They were spelling some crazy words,” said Dunn, a fifth-grade teacher at Roland Rogers Elementary School.

Representing area schools, 38 students between the ages of 9 and 14 competed Saturday at the local spelling bee championships at Galloway Township Middle School for the right to go to the national championships May 27-29 in Washington D.C.

The field narrowed steadily until just five remained, said Eigbe’s father, Patrick Eigbe. And that’s how it stayed, for tense round after round, carefully spelled word after word.

“I don’t know if he (Ebose) was as nervous as myself,” Patrick Eigbe said.

When Kunal Jadeja, representing Brigantine North Middle School, stumbled over “arson,” Ebose had an opening.

And then he was served up “crawdad,” a word the 14-year-old Galloway Township Middle School eighth-grader said he had never seen before in his life. (The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it’s a variation on “crayfish,” a small freshwater crustacean. It is common in Louisiana Cajun cooking, and resembles an undersized lobster.)

He spelled that successfully, and his championship word, devour, and that was it.

It’s unclear if anyone else has had a local winning streak like Ebose, Dunn said. Ebose has previously attributed his success to studying and practice, which have helped build up his vocabulary and his confidence.

His father was nervous Saturday, but was he?

“No,” Ebose said. “I knew I was going to win.”

Contact Derek Harper:

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Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.