By Rachel Shirey
JONESBORO — Some kids shook at the microphone. Some were confident and stood tall.
Some kids closed their eyes while they spelled. Some kids stared straight at the judges.
Some kids spoke loudly as if exclaiming their confidence, and some kids were almost inaudible letting their spelling speak for itself.
But all kids competed to be number one at the annual district spelling bee.
Fifty-three students from local elementary and middle schools competed at the annual Clayton County Public Schools Spelling Bee Championship Thursday at the Performing Arts Center. Fourth- through eighth-grade students were featured in the competition.
The competition began with a practice round, where children were free to misspell easy words like coffee, turkey and desk.
The students looked on at the judges as if they were bored, and the unlucky few who missed the words? Well, they looked slightly vexed with themselves.
But the real competition came as the first round began with words like landmark, hare and stable.
However, not a word was missed and the audience loudly applauded their success. The students didn’t seem to notice the attention though as they were in competition mode, focused on their peers to evaluate their skill.
Word level increased in round two, which left at least seven students disappointed. And thus the competition continued through round 10, while words like bravado, herbaceous, austere, contingency, sphinx and contemporaneous started the long process toward elimination.
And finally there were four, all of whom will be attending the regional spell-off at Mundy’s Mill Middle School in February.
After a few back-and-forth rounds, North Clayton Middle School eighth-grader Kalyn Smith became the local champion.
“It was like an outer body experience,” she said. “It was like I wasn’t even there.”
Smith said she studied the long list of words every day until the competition, but still felt she hadn’t prepared enough. She was surprised she came out on top.
“I think the shock will set in later,” she said.
Following her win, Smith said she plans to continue studying her words so she’ll feel prepared at the regional competition.
Riverdale Middle School seventh-grader Jennifer Vo took second place, M.D. Roberts Middle School eighth-grader Jessica Docks took third and Lake City Elementary fourth-grader Katelynn Nguyen took fourth.
“I think today showed just how prepared the students were,” said Alisha Albritten, an implementation specialist and spelling bee judge. “It displayed how much time and energy they put into preparing for today’s spelling bee. As a former teacher and now being a part of the support team for one of the areas, it just shows what great work our schools are doing with the students.”
During the bee, Albritten could hardly contain her excitement at the students’ success. She smiled and nodded in excitement when they got the words correct, and shook her head with a look of sympathy and encouragement when they got the words wrong.
The district spelling bee contestants have all won championships at their home schools.
Dr. Joel Boyce, a language arts facilitator, pronounced the words for students from a list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Students were permitted to ask for words to be repeated, utilized in sentences, and the definitions.
Along with Albritten, judges were Margaret Rezek, a retired language arts teacher and Joane McDonald, a language arts facilitator.
“We’re very proud of them, they’re excellent spellers,” said Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Educators Association. “We always have excellent spellers.”