For the last 20 minutes or so of the LCPS Spelling Bee on Tuesday night, the only certainty was that a student from Contentnea-Savannah K-8 would take home the top prize.
Jemerius Hardy, an eighth grader at CSS, and fifth grader Alexa Hudson, representing the elementary wing of the school, outlasted 11 other contestants before locking into a head-to-head battle that ran through 24 called words.
After sailing through 13 rounds of sudden-death spelling, when a miss meant elimination, neither was able to put together the two-word combination that, first, corrected the opponent’s miss and then successfully spelled the next word for the win.
In the final minute, Alexa missed on “orthopedic” and Jermerius seized the opening, correctly spelling that word and the word that won it for him – “chandeliers.”
He attributed his success to studying.
“I looked over my words a lot,” the 13-year-old said. “I have an app on my phone that reads out words to me and I spell them. I use that all the time.”
Jemerius had made it to the district finals to represent his school as a fifth grader, he said. “When I got to the county spelling bee, I messed up on the word ‘admirer.’”
This trip he polished off a list of harder words: anecdote, taxidermy, propaganda, facilitate, massacres, germinate and endeavor, among others.
Jemerius and Alexa each took home trophies, as did third-place winner Ashton Hoffman, an eighth grader from E.B. Frink Middle School.
All contestants received medals presented by Superintendent Brent Williams. Spellers in the district contest are all winners of spelling bees held at their schools.
In addition to Jemerius, Alexa and Ashton, contestants were: Olivia West of Banks Elementary, Layla Wentzell of La Grange Elementary, Caidan Smith of Moss Hill Elementary, Enisa Gooding of Northeast Elementary, Owen Sylvia of Northwest Elementary, Skylar Pope of Pink Hill Elementary, Kenyari Lender of Southeast Elementary, Addison Eubanks of Southwood Elementary, Ali Crawford of Rochelle Middle and Cassidy Kennedy of Woodington Middle.
Northwest Elementary School hosted the spelling bee and Dr. Deb Winings, the district’s director of elementary education, emceed. Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey II served as caller and judges were Tina Letchworth, director of federal programs for the district; Sandra Baker of Kinston High School; and Michael Moon of Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School.