After twelve dreaded dings of the elimination bell, only two District One Spelling Bee contenders remained front and center in the Lakeland Auditorium at Georgia Highlands College on Saturday morning.
It took seven additional rounds between the pair of heavyweights before Chloe Carter, a seventh-grader at Fannin County Middle School, clinched the title after spelling “extravaganza” and “Samaritan” back to back on Saturday morning.
Brandon Webb, a sixth-grader at Calhoun Middle School, left Carter an opening when he faulted on “vigilante.”
A tough opening round vanquished eight of the 14 original competitors with words like “matinee,” “alfalfa” and “kahuna.” In the following rounds “wiseacre,” “pinafore” and “incorruptible” confounded the remaining hopefuls.
Kathy Truong, a sixth-grader from West Central Elementary who represented Rome City Schools, took third place and will serve as an alternate for the Georgia Association of Educators’ State Spelling Bee.
Carter’s principal at Fannin County Middle, Keith Nuckolls, couldn’t have been prouder of his student’s achievement.
“She works hard and is so well-adjusted. This just goes to show that anybody can accomplish things if they work hard. We are so proud for her and the way she has represented our school,” he said.
Carter received a $200 voucher and a trophy commemorating her victory, while Webb took home a $100 voucher and a trophy as well. Both move on to represent District One in the statewide competition on March 17 in Atlanta, where they will get a shot at advancing to the national bee.
“My favorite restaurant is Olive Garden. We’ll probably celebrate there,” the soft-spoken Carter said with a smile.
She’d been here before — in the same position as Webb, in fact, when in 2015 she took runner-up at the bee. 2017 proved to be different, however, and she credits her studying for that.
“Spelling is fundamental,” said Christy Davis, coordinator of the bee. “Words are power. Saying the right thing at the right time makes a well-rounded citizen.”
A moment near the end of the event illustrated just how well- rounded these young citizens are. After being told about the cash vouchers the two finalists would receive, Webb had just one question.
“Will they tax me for it?”
As the audience chortled, Davis assured him the prize was tax-exempt.