Two dozen Bibb County school students sat spellbound Saturday as they prepared to launch a litany of letters from their lips.
The district’s brightest spellers gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School for an alphabet battle that would send three of them on to district competition.
The countywide public school competition is a preliminary for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of the school year.
Sofia Ali’s rain boots didn’t even touch the floor as she swung her feet back and forth in her chair on stage.
The Springdale Elementary student and others from local elementary and middle schools breezed through practice rounds in spelling and vocabulary before the first round of competition.
Half of the students were eliminated in the first round, leaving a dozen youngsters to compete in vocabulary on the stage in the cafetorium of the school on Shurling Drive.
A quarter of them failed to correctly define the words in the event’s only vocabulary round and left the stage.
“Phew,” Heard Elementary’s Trinity Ratteree exclaimed when learning the rest of the contest would be all spelling.
As the competition intensified with increasingly difficult words, a couple of the competitors paused and used their index fingers to write out the word on their palms.
The competitors quickly dwindled down to three.
The elimination of Howard Middle School’s Patrice Awotunde meant she would be the alternate for the district competition and led to the showdown between Miller Middle School’s Jordan Harrell, 13, and Aman Boricha-Masand of the Academy for Classical Education.
The volley between the two lasted for five words until Aman was asked to spell “inadvertent.”
He began rattling off the letters, “i-n-a-d-v-e-r... t... a-n-t,” and stepped back and looked down as a judge was shaking his head.
Jordan had to spell the next two words perfectly to win the bee.
“Capital E-i-n-s-t-e-i-n. Einstein.”
The pronouncer called out “nuisance.”
“N-u-i-s-a-n-c-e,” Jordan said and the room applauded as the final round ended in less than two minutes.
Jordan and Aman will move on to the 2017 District Six Spelling Bee at Fort Valley State University on Feb. 25.
Jordan said he excelled in spelling from an early age. He studies words every day and aspires to work for a spelling bee one day.
He didn’t think there were any words given Saturday that he didn’t know how to spell, but he did admit to being nervous.
“A little bit, at the beginning, I was nervous,” Jordan said.
Aman tries to re-read all his spelling words every day.
“I balance it out,” said Aman. I give about three hours a week to spelling and then school. And then, you’ve got to have fun.”
The eight grader went to district last year and plans to study harder before next week’s competition and his last shot at advancing to state.
“I know what it’s going to be like. It’s tough,” he said.
The MASAB Temple No. 11 donated prize money for the winners — $50 for alternate, $75 for second place and $125 for the winner.
Jordan said he plans to save it up.
Henry Davis, of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order, Nobles Mystic Shrine, Inc., said it’s their mission to recognize the academic achievements of students who are often overshadowed by accolades doled out in sports.
“When it comes to athletes, we are quick to acknowledge those things, but academics we tend to ignore,” Davis said.
The checks to the winners are to show the service organization’s appreciation for the students’ hard work, he said.
“We hope that you will continue to do great things.”