St. Mary’s sixth-grader Gabriela Lumpkin, a returning finalist, was scored the first of the 42 competitors from Excel Christian Academy in Cartersville, Berry Elementary and Unity Christian School.
Gabriela said while she did do some preparation for the competition, none of the words seemed difficult.
At the end, she took extra time to ensure the spelling of her final word was correct before reciting it to the judges.
Even with the home court advantage, second-place winner UCS eighth-grader Mary McKenna said nervousness was a factor.
“I was excited but I didn’t like standing in front of people,” McKenna said.
The contest opened with a prayer and UCS principal Rob Davis told the audience that his parents, who were very supportive and encouraging, also knew their son’s limits.
“They never ever told me to enter a spelling bee,” Davis laughed, saying he to this day isn’t an apt speller.
The panel of five judges oversaw the 11 rounds of competition, which lasted longer than two hours.
In the first round “receive,” “specialty” and “beautiful” eliminated three contestants, and the spelling difficulty grew in measure with “adjudicate” eliminating one in the third round and “haddock” catching one in round four.
By round six the pool had dwindled to 16 contestants and the attrition began in earnest.
“Crocodilian,” “subterranean,” “rutabaga,” “ineffable,” “psychoanalysis,” “cajolery,” “synthetically” and “marionette” were some of the words that the competing students spelled correctly throughout the contest.
But by round 10, the final four took the stage with the two finalists correctly spelling “scalpel” and “plutonite.” “Oncologist” and “acquittal” pared it down to the final two, with Gabriela taking “catapult” after an incorrect spelling by Mary and finishing the competition by spelling “residue” correctly.