Students ages 9-14, ranging from grades four through eight, represented nine schools from Catoosa County in their quest to become spelling champion.
After introductions of the judges and caller, the students competed in a warm-up round to ready themselves for the competition.
The contestants treated the audience to a flawless first round, with every student correctly spelling their respec-tive word. But as the rounds progressed, the field began to slim down due to the increased difficulty of the words.
“You get nervous up there,” said 10-year-old Bryce Bird of Boynton Elementary. “Even if you’re a good speller, sometimes it’s hard to get it right when everybody is looking at you.”
As the field narrowed down to the final seven contestants, Jae Lee, Christian Sawyer, Samantha Barton, and Ryan Price all misspelled consecutively, which in turn created a four-way tie for fourth place. After the conclusion of the Bee, those tied for fourth place competed in an elimination round to determine who would be awarded the fourth-place trophy, with Christian Sawyer outlasting his three counterparts.
Bryce Bird was the last male student standing as he was eliminated with a third-place finish, resulting in a spell-off between 14-year-old Kelsey Whited of Lakeview Middle School and 10-year-old Jennie Williams of Boynton Ele-mentary.
Williams and Whited went back and forth, even misspelling consecutive words, resulting in a restart of the final round. But in the end, Kelsey Whited was the last speller remaining, and was awarded the first place trophy.
“It’s really feels great to win,” Whited said. “Everybody did a great job. I just think that nerves had a lot to do with it once we got up there and started spelling. It’s tougher than it looks.”
The top four finishers will now move on to compete in the Regional Bee, which will be held March 20 at 2 p.m. at the Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts in Chattanooga. From that point, winners will be eligible to compete in the 2010 National Spelling Bee.