Mammoth Spring seventh grader, Alec Johnson, won a Jan. 18 battle with Salem eighth grader, Lane Hall, to become the Fulton County Spelling Bee Champion.
Johnson joined Hall and four other students in the competition's final match at Salem Elementary School.
Johnson, who won the Mammoth Spring contest, and Tyler Lough and Brianna Van Genhoven, who finished second and third, competed with the top three Salem Spelling Bee winners: Emma Phillips, Trevor Falco and Hall.
Four students dropped out by misspelling words in early rounds, leaving Johnson and Hall to battle it out.
Tension built as Johnson and Hall both correctly spelled the next five words they were given.
In the sixth round, Hall misspelled and Johnson took the contest by correctly spelling the word "newfangled".
Both students won trophies for their top finishes.
Johnson is now eligible to represent Fulton County in the State Spelling Bee in Little Rock.
Schools pay a fee to participate in the National Spelling Bee competition, sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Company. In return, they receive word lists, pronouncer guides, study materials and access to award certificates.
More than 100 students in grades four to eight participated in the spelling bees in Salem and Mammoth Spring, which choose the participants in the final match.
Eileen McCord, director of Salem's Gifted and Talented Program, says some recent movies about spelling bee competitions have helped stir new interest in the old tradition.
McCord believes the competition is beneficial to students, since it gives them experience appearing in the spotlight before a crowd and puts participants in a situation where they have to concentrate and think on their feet.
Alec Johnson said he was a little nervous as the competition began and, like other finalists, spent some time practicing his spelling skills before the final spell down began.
Runner up Lane Hall said he wasn't too nervous because he did not expect to do as well as he did, since he finished third in the Salem contest.
The Arkansas Democrat- Gazette sponsors the state contest. It will be held March 19 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
If Johnson wins the state competition, he will move on to the National Spelling Bee in Washington.