(Photo by Richard Irby)
The students had advanced after winning spelling bees at their schools.
In a practice round, they quickly learned the bee was going to be challenging. Salem High School teacher Amanda Kennedy, who directed the spelling bee, said she had trouble finding "easy" practice words, and only one of the six competitors correctly spelled the practice words they were given.
When real competition began, it was no easier with students confronted with words like "depravity," "quantitative," "stratification" and "forensics."
The competition narrowed down to two students, Salem seventh grader Caitlin Lawyer and Viola sixth grader Nathanael Jackson.
Lawyer became the winner when Jackson misspelled his word, and she spelled her word correctly then sealed the victory by getting a final word right.
"I studied some at school with friends," Lawyer said after her victory. "I read a lot and knew more words this year."
Her mother, Teresa, said she was excited, not surprised, that Caitlin took the large spelling bee trophy home with her.
The victory means that, as Fulton County champ, Lawyer will advance to the state spelling bee championship in Little Rock in early March.
The winner of the state competition will get an all-expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May.
The Fulton County championship, held in the school cafeteria, was set up so that students sat in a row facing the two judges. Each student would walk to a microphone facing a spectator seating area as they spelled the words presented to them.
The set-up was designed to give the winner an idea of how the state bee will be set up.
Lawyer did not promise victory but said she would "do her best."
Participants in the spelling bee were:
Lawyer and sixth grader Sophie Rossitto of Salem, runner-up Nathanael Jackson and fifth grader Anna Ring of Viola, and Alex Mero, a fifth grader, and Devon Cray, a sixth grader, from Mammoth Spring.