Morrison seventh-grader Caleb Smith gave a "magnanimous" effort Thursday night and showed he wasn't "susceptible" to stumbling when it comes to spelling.
Smith proved to his challengers he wasn't about to "abdicate" his title of champion as he won the Southern Standard countywide spelling bee for the third straight year.
Smith outlasted Dibrell eighth-grader Abe Perkins in a 23-round marathon when Perkins tripped on the word "colloquial," spelling it with only one "l." That gave Smith the chance to win with "exuberant," one of the easier words in the championship round.
"It was a tough spelling bee," Smith said afterwards. "I wanted to win, but I also wanted my cousin to win too. I was pulling for her."
His cousin, Morrison sixth-grader Lauren Ashby, made it to the finals and performed well. She correctly spelled words such as "bicameral" and "melisma," before stumbling on "precipice" in the 14th round.
Perkins was a confident speller and took Smith the distance in an epic spelling battle. Perkins correctly spelled "assyrian," "blandishment," and "subterfuge" among his more difficult words before getting "colloquial."
Schools throughout the county hold spelling bees to determine representatives at the countywide bee, which was held this year at Centertown Elementary.
At the countywide bee, grade-level winners compete against each other in classrooms before the finalists square off on the main stage. The finalists include the top speller from each grade.
The five finalists this year were: Irving College fourth-grader Karigan Smith, Dibrell fifth-grader Aniston Wood, Morrison sixth-grader Lauryn Ashby, Morrison seventh-grader Caleb Smith, and Dibrell eighth-grader Abe Perkins.
Caleb Smith is eager to make his third trip to the regional spelling bee in Knoxville. He captured a 17th-place finish there last year. He was knocked out by the word "elegy," which he mistakenly spelled "elogy."
To get ready for the regional bee, Smith asked for an unabridged dictionary and says he studies regularly.
"I study every night," Smith said. "Sometimes it will be for an hour a night."
A few years back, contestants were required to win a countywide spelling bee to be eligible for the Knoxville spelling bee. However, rules have been relaxed in recent years and now school winners are eligible. Several students said Thursday night they would be competing in Knoxville, with the winner there earning a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.