"You have a lot to be proud of," said supervisor of elementary education Vylatte Gooch as she welcomed competitors. "This is a big achievement."
In numerical order, each student stepped up to the microphone, faced the judges, and gave their name and school.
Then Enunciator Ginger Hardison, an English teacher at Cornersville High School, gave the word they had to spell. Competitors were allowed to ask for the word to be repeated, defined, and used in a sentence.
After an hour, two rounds had been completed. Words like euphonious, rambunctious and rhombus had claimed their victims and the field had been narrowed to nine. Every word was spelled correctly in the third round; the fourth round eliminated one person; and the fifth round saw three more leave the stage. One more was knocked out in the sixth, and then the remaining four went through three rounds without a mistake.
In round 10, the tricky words "chronic" and "yacht" knocked out Cameron Bogle and Elisha Brewer, leaving Traceton Randolph and Julie Wright fighting for first and second place. Randolph correctly spelled "mahi mahi" while Wright made an unsuccessful guess at "neuron." The rules state that the prospective winner has to spell another word, so Randolph's championship word was "Biblical" which gave him no problem.
Bogle and Brewer then had to spell off for third place. They were neck and neck through five pairs of words, until finally Bogle missed "Wagnerian" while Brewer was correct with "physique" and claimed the third-place trophy.
Winner Traceton Randolph is an LMS 7th grader. Runner-up Julie Wright is in Mia DeMello's 5th grade class at Chapel Hill Elementary. They will go on to the Middle Tennessee Regional Bee at Belmont University on Wednesday, March 2. The winner of that bee will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national event in June.
In third place was Elisha Brewer. Randolph, Bogle and Brewer all study with language arts teacher, Carolyn Keysaer.
"You want to do that again?" Randolph's mother, Nicole Ellison, asked when he told her he was going to the spelling bee. Last year Randolph was in the LMS bee, but failed to qualify for the countywide contest. Ellison said they just got the list of words the day before, and she and Randolph's grandmother ran through the words with him.
Wright's father Mark said she had practiced "quite a bit" over the last couple of days.
"She's pretty smart," he said. "She takes after her mother" Debbie.
The prizes were trophies, savings bonds and Sonic gift cards, and every participant got a certificate and a participation gift bag. The Marshall County Education Association presented the spelling bee, assisted by sponsorship from First Commerce Bank, Sonic, Wal-Mart, Sanford, and Lewisburg Printing. The word lists came from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Judges were Nancy Aldridge, Lori Curtis and Carol Helton; and the school coordinators were Westhills, Lynn Johnson; Cornersville, Meri Bigham; Chapel Hill Elementary School, Cindy Gabard; Marshall Elementary, Jason Donahue; Oak Grove, Lisa Kreuzer; Cornersville Middle, Jill Worley; and LMS, Carolyn Keysaer.