Junus Searcy has never eaten an apricot in his life, but he might have to give one a try now.
Apricot is the word the Rutland Middle School seventh grader correctly spelled to win the Bibb County Spelling Bee on Saturday. He and second place winner Tavores Pearson Jr. will advance to the regional competition at Fort Valley State University.
Junus said he really doesnt read a lot, but has a knack for spelling.
Ive always had the ability to spell, Junus said after his victory. I knew I would win.
As the last speller knocked out before the two finalists, Marquez Finney, a Hartley Elementary School student, was the third-place winner.
About 200 people attended the bee, held in the Central High School Auditorium. It began with 32 spellers, all winners from bees held at each elementary and middle school in the Bibb County system.
It began with each student spelling a word in a practice round. Those were words most students would be expected to know, including teacher, school and study, and the competitors had little trouble with those.
When the first round began, the difficulty level stepped up a good bit. Those words included restaurant, stratification, authoritative and transients. One misspelled word meant the student was out, and the first round bounced about half the competitors off the stage.
After several rounds, it was down to Junus and Tavores, a Weaver Middle School seventh-grader.
At that point, the rules changed a bit. Previously if a word was spelled wrong, the next student got a new word. But in the final, if one of them spelled a word wrong, the next would get a shot at the same word. If that student spelled the word right, he then got a new word and if he spelled that right, he was the winner.
The two correctly spelled 25 words before Tavores tripped up on bequeath. Junus spelled it correctly, then spelled apricot for the win.
The Fort Valley competition will afford the two a chance to advance to state, and if they win there, they can advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is televised.
Junus at least figures to have a decent shot at getting to national this year. After finishing second in Bibb County last year, he advanced to state, where he finished fifth.
Britney Morris, the coordinator of the competition, said the words used are provided by the state in a guide used in all local spelling bees. She is impressed at the difficult words students spell correctly.
Im always astounded by the words from the book, she said. We have some good spellers. They study hard.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.