COVINGTON - Eighth-grade Clements Middle School student Stephanie Lightsey said she's only one of the few middle school students she knows who likes language arts. And perhaps that's why she's got one thing her friends don't: four trophies from the Newton County Spelling Bee.
In the past five years, she has captured first place in the county's Spelling Bee four times. She won the county competition in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
Wednesday morning, she received her fourth honor after six rounds of competition between 15 other elementary and middle school contestants.
In the last round, after 14 other fourth- through eighth-grade contestants were eliminated, Lightsey had to spell "hydrangea" when Cousins Middle School seventh-grader Tiesha Cullins misspelled it.
Lightsey spelled the word correctly, as well as "cornucopia," to win the competition.
"I really didn't think I'd win this year," Lightsey said. "This year, I didn't really practice as much ... and a lot of (the other contestants) are really good."
In early rounds of the competition, Lightsey spelled "enormous," "atrophy" and "coincidence." Other students had to try to spell such words as "mahogany," "benevolence," "aerosol" and "language."
"I think the last few years (of Spelling Bees) were harder," Lightsey said. "But it might be because I was younger. The school ones seemed harder this year."
Both Lightsey and Cullins won trophies, and all of the contestants and their alternates were given certificates and ribbons for their participation.
"These students have worked awfully hard to get to this point," said Ken Proctor, director of elementary schools for the Newton County School System.
Lightsey said she loves to write, but she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
She will advance to the regional Spelling Bee, which will be held at Putnam County Middle School on Feb. 23. In sixth grade, she placed third in the region.
The regional winner will go on to compete in the state and then the national competition.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.