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The competition was close as young spellers battled it out for the top title in the Otago Daily Times Extra! central South Island quiz last night.
Schools from across the central South Island, including Timaru, Ashburton, Temuka and Waimate, converged on the Timaru Boys' High School hall to demonstrate their spelling talents.
Teams from years 5 and 6 had a very tight final as Gleniti School claimed first place by half a point. The Timaru trio of Luke Winter, Jack Houstoun and Mackenzie Walker won the event with a score of 87.5, beating the Waimate Centennial team, which had 87.
Third place in the year 5-6 section was awarded to Long Beach School's team, who travelled from just south of Ashburton for the event and claimed top marks with a score of 86 points.
Gleniti's Mackenzie Walker said the team had been ''goodish'' throughout the 100-question quiz, but winning was unexpected.
The close competition continued in the hall later on in the evening as finding the winning team in the year 7 and 8 quiz came down to a spell-off.
The senior pupils of Gleniti School had won third place in the intermediate-age competition, scoring 92 points out of 100, but two teams were tied for first and a winner had to be found.
Ashburton Intermediate and St Joseph's, also from Ashburton, both sat on 93 points.
It took seven spell-off questions, with words including ''effervescent'', ''psychology'' and ''camaraderie'', for Ashburton Intermediate to claim the title after correctly spelling ''sergeant''.
It was the first time Laura Jensen had competed in the inter-school event, and the second for the other two Ashburton Intermediate pupils.
The competition this year was run by Allied Press staff member Simon Kemp and Extra! editor Trish Rowe, after long-time quiz hosts Ivan and Anne Behrnes retired from the role after 15 years last year.
Pupils from years 9 and 10 will have their own competition later today, which will also be held in the Timaru Boys' High School hall.
The junior high school-aged pupils will compete from 4.30pm-6pm today.
The quiz is run in multiple locations around the country by the Otago Daily Times, through Extra!, its monthly Newspapers in Education publication for primary, intermediate and junior secondary school pupils.
-By Greta Yeoman