Students, Kathleen Mabutin (from left), Monica Johnson, and Haley Conally were finalists in the 2012 Henry County Spelling Bee. They will represent the school district in competition at Mundy’s Mill Middle School in Jonesboro, on Feb. 25.
Monica Johnson stood, plain-faced, as she watched the once-large crowd around her shrink with each passing word — and letter.
“I was really focused,” said Johnson, a seventh-grader at Dutchtown Middle School in Hampton.
She correctly spelled “lectern,” and “abduction” in succession, to capture the title.
The 13-year-old was announced the winner of the 2012 Henry County Spelling Bee, held Friday at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough. As the bee’s winner, she earned a spot in the Georgia Association of Educators-sponsored District Five Spelling Bee on Feb. 25, at Mundy’s Mill Middle School, located at 1251 Mundy’s Mill Road, in Jonesboro.
Runners-up, Haley Connolly, 14, and Kathleen Mabutin, 10, will join Johnson in the upcoming district competition. Connolly, an eighth-grader at Hampton Middle School, in Hampton, finished in second place. Mabutin, a fifth-grader at New Hope Elementary School, in Locust Grove, finished in third place. They were Henry County’s three finalists out of the 38 total contestants.
Fifth District regional competitors include participants from schools in the counties of Carroll, Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Griffin-Spalding, Haralson, Henry, Polk, and Rockdale, along with the Bremen City and Carrolton City schools, according to spelling bee sponsors.
Southern Crescent spellers from neighboring Clayton County include: Rex Middle School seventh-grader, Brittany Chopra, who will enter as the champion from Clayton County. She will be joined by Ayodele Foster-McCroy, an eighth-grader at Kendrick Middle School, Chizim Ogbonna of Jackson Elementary School, and Khadija Usman of North Clayton Elementary School.
Henry’s champion, Johnson, acknowledged her nervousness heading to district-level competition next month for a chance to go on to state competition. She will have company, though. Johnson, Connolly, and Mabutin also are the second straight all-girl group of spelling bee representatives from Henry County Schools.
Henry County’s Mabutin was a part of last year’s group of county finalists, finishing second overall in the county. However, all three ladies had prior experience at their county spelling bee; they all were contestants in the fourth-grade.
As top spellers in Friday’s county-level bee, the students were awarded certificates and cash prizes from the Henry County Association of Educators. Johnson received a spelling bee trophy and $100 cash for winning the bee. Connolly and Mabutin were awarded $50 and $25 respectively for finishing second and third overall.
“I think it was very competitive,” said Beth Scarboro, Henry’s English/language arts coordinator. “The students were all on their game, and the words were challenging along the way.”
Scarboro said thousands of students, from fourth-through eighth-grade, competed at their individual schools for the chance at this year’s Henry County Spelling Bee, where Henry County Schools Superintendent Ethan Hildreth acted as moderator.
Spellers, who succeed at the district level, can go on to the State Spelling Bee on March 16, at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
–– Staff writer Jeylin White contributed to this article.