Cousins Middle School seventh-grader Mackenzie Snyder, who was last year's defending champion in the Newton County Spelling Bee, took the top spot again this year after spelling the word "flabbergast." Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- A spelling bee that almost was almost over in just eight rounds ended up being one of the longest county bees.
"I don't think I've ever been involved in that long of a spelling bee before," said Lee Peck, executive director for School Improvement at the Newton County School System.
In Round Eight of the competition at Newton High School, the first contestant spelled his word "threshold" correctly, and the three other remaining contestants misspelled their words -- "dilemma," "vaccine" and "emulate."
Judges had to confer for nearly 30 minutes to determine what would happen next, and, after a protest from the audience was made, consulted the rule -- that determined what happened when only one person in a round spells a word correctly. In that instance, a special round will be held with the contestants who originally were eliminated in the previous round.
"It's always our effort to make sure we follow the rules; unfortunately, we don't have all of them memorized," said Samantha Fuhrey, deputy superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.
Judges had the contestants, including the remaining lone elementary school student, Jayden Wheeler from Live Oak Elementary, come back up to the stage to continue spelling.
After a couple more rounds, the final two contestants emerged -- Clements Middle School seventh-grader Casey Roberson and Cousins Middle School seventh-grader Mackenzie Snyder, who was the defending champion.
"I kept thinking, 'Is it ever going to end?'" Snyder said after the bee.
After about 25 more rounds of intense spelling -- and a couple of close calls -- Snyder emerged as the victor again by correcting the spelling of Roberson's missed word, "maneuver," and then correctly spelling the winning word "flabbergast."
"You guys really put on great show," Fuhrey said after the winner was announced.
The competition began with 19 students in fourth through eighth grades from each of the county's elementary and middle schools, as well as the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett.
"I'm just excited -- it was awesome," Snyder said after the event. "There was a lot of extra pressure. I was really nervous."
She said her older brother, Matthew, told her ahead of time that he didn't think she could win, so she was glad to prove him wrong.
"I was nervous," said Snyder, who also won the county bee once in elementary school.
She's been practicing spelling using an online game to prepare for the county bee, and she will continue to use that and study spelling lists before she heads to the regional event, which is at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Putnam County Middle School in Eatonton.
Snyder placed in the Top 5 at the regional competition last year and hopes to win this year to make it to the state competition and maybe even the national competition. And she's already promised to win the county spelling bee for a third year in a row next year.
"It's just fun," said Snyder, daughter of Kerin Teague of Covington.
But she might have some competition next year from this year's runner-up, who has promised to show up again, too.
"I thought I was going to win for a second," said Roberson, son of Debra and Jody Roberson.
During the county competition, Snyder correctly spelled words like "pageant," "romaine," "kindling," "indiscreet" and "harassment." Roberson correctly spelled words like "tortoise," "nautical," "counterfeit," "judgmental" and "conjecture." Other words in the competition included "galloping," "carafe," "caterpillar," "desist," "plenary" and "filibuster."
"It was good," Roberson said about the contest.
Each of the contestants and their alternates, who were runners-up in the school competitions, received certificates and ribbons for participating in the bee. The winner and runner-up at the county competition also received trophies.
"Spelling is a very, very important skill. We're very proud of these boys and girls for representing their schools," Peck said. "We know this is nerve-wracking."
The video of the spelling bee will be placed on the NCSS YouTube channel, which can be accessed through the system's home page, www.newtoncountyschools.org.