Brothers win spelling bees at the same time

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The St. Louis regional spelling bee this weekend will see two unique competitors. Brothers Max and Philip Harbuck of Crestwood will both compete in the written semifinal spelling bee at McKendree University Saturday.

Philip, a third-grader, won the Long Elementary School spelling bee Jan. 24.

Within 10 minutes, fifth-grader Max won the PEGS gifted program spelling bee at Kennerly Elementary.

The champion spellers are the sons of Becca and Ben Harbuck of Crestwood.

“They were literally both winning their spelling bees at the same time,” said the boys’ father.

To top it off, the Lindbergh Schools students — both redheaded — look so much alike that many people think they’re twins, Ben Harbuck said.

While Becca attended Max’s bee, Ben attended Philip’s across town, and they were texting each other as the boys progressed through their spelling words.

Max won by correctly spelling “discrepancies,” and Philip won with “brayed.”

Not surprisingly, the brothers study their words at home together.

“We study the words together, me and the boys, and I am helping them remember the words by making up stories using the words as we go,” Ben Harbuck said. “One favorite story involves a ‘skateboard manifesto.’”

The Harbucks won’t be able to know this Saturday how the brothers are doing since the St. Louis Post-Dispatch-sponsored McKendree bee semifinal is a written test, with the final set for Saturday, March 14. The winner will go to the National Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C, in May.