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Students on edge as they compete at Lodi spelling bee

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Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 12:00 am

Tension was high in the Lawrence Elementary School cafeteria Thursday morning. Eighteen kids from schools around Lodi Unified School District were seated onstage behind a semi-circle of tables. Placed before each student was a pencil, a pad of paper and a bright yellow card listing their name and school. They shifted in their seats and gnawed on fingernails, waiting nervously for spellmaster Gary Odell, vice principal at Lawrence, to begin the Lodi Area Spelling Bee.

"It's important to know you are all winners," Lawrence principal Carlos Villafana reminded the contestants. Each one had already won a spelling bee in their classroom and at their respective schools, but this was the big leagues. "Do you see yourselves as winners?"

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