Preston Walton of M.D. Roberts Middle enjoys reading nonfiction books about animals. He wants to become a veterinarian. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
JONESBORO — Preston Walton has a quiet confidence in his abilities.
The 11-year-old proved his spelling prowess among equally-able peers Tuesday by winning the 2014 Clayton County Public Schools Spelling Bee.
“It feels good,” said Walton, a sixth-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle. “I was pretty confident that I would at least make the top four.”
He placed first the county bee, spelling the word “holograph” correctly in the 15th round. The runner-up, Lovejoy Middle eighth-grader Alexander Niles, misspelled the word “portraiture.”
Officials said two other runners-up will join the top two in next month’s regional spelling bee. Rachel McBride, a fourth-grader at G.W. Northcutt Elementary, took third place. And E.J. Swint Elementary fourth-grader, Sania Fambrough, claimed the fourth spot.
“My goal is to win and try my best,” said Walton.
Walton’s recent win came from his first attempt at the countywide title and with mostly a calm and collected attitude. However, he acknowledged a scare around the ninth round, when he was challenged to spell “prognosticate.”
“I wasn’t going to say ‘g’ at first, I was going to just say the ‘n,’” he said.
The rest seemed smooth sailing for the kid who survived 15 grueling rounds against roughly 50 of the district’s best spellers in grades four through eight.
“It felt like I was at home reviewing my words with my mom,” said Walton.
The boy’s mother, Princess Walton, helped him study. The pair reviewed words two hours a day the entire week leading up to the bee.
Walton said he noticed his mother in the audience. His father, Will Gary, uncle John Patrick and his teachers also were at the bee to support him.
Ebony Lee, the district’s language arts coordinator, applauded his achievement.
“Spelling well is an important life skill,” said Lee. “The annual spelling bee aims to increase students’ ability to spell more accurately by fostering stronger word-consciousness.
“Students learn how to use their knowledge of morphemes, i.e. roots, prefixes, suffixes, etc., and spelling rules to determine how to spell a word correctly,” she added. “Students become more familiar with the common spellings associated with words from various etymologies, such as Germanic, Latin, French, Greek, etc.”
Lee said students learn that words that sound the same can have different spellings, and words that are spelled the same can have different meanings based on how they are used.
“Furthermore, students who are skillful spellers perform more proficiently on the conventions, portion of our state and national exams, and these skills show through their written communication,” she said. “Along with academics, participating in the annual spelling bee builds students’ confidence, their capacity to persist through challenges, their memorization skills and their ability to compete in a respectful manner.”
The top four from this year’s county spelling bee will go on to regional competition next month for a chance to move on to state competition.