Morrison eighth-grader Caleb Smith will retire on top, the young wordsmith garnering his fourth title in the Southern Standard spelling bee Monday evening, nailing the word “balderdash” before claiming the title of best speller over his cousin with the word “belligerent.”
“I try to picture the word in my head and spell it out,” Smith said, admitting he is a slow reader and does not read much. “I study words a lot and my mom helps me.”
It took several rounds for Smith to defeat his cousin and fellow Morrison student Lauryn Ashby in the finals which featured the top spellers from around the county in grades 4-8. Ashby’s hopes of hoisting the trophy were derailed on the word “accolades.”
Ashby had survived the original round of eliminations that saw the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade champions missing their first words.
Smith’s biggest hurdle came off the main stage in the semifinal round of the eighth grade division when he and Olivia Grissom from Dibrell went word-for-word for nearly 90 minutes. He was able to emerge from the classroom as eighth-grade champion to take on Lauryn Ashby, who was the seventh-grade winner, along with her sister, Morrison fourth-grader Ella Ashby, West Elementary fifth-grader Hannah Woodruff and Irving College sixth-grader Esperanza Gant.
For Ella Ashby, the word that tripped her up in the finals was “predominant.” Ella, despite her early departure in the finals, maintained she is the better speller between her and fellow finalist, Lauryn Ashby – with Lauryn debating her younger sister’s claim.
For Woodruff, the first-round stumbling block was a fairly modern word that has gained fame on the internet. Her stumbling word was “emoji.” The miss hasn’t dissuaded the former runner-up, who intends to return next year in hopes of claiming the championship.
Gant’s first-round elimination came on the word “solarium.” Gant, who reads often, plans to take another shot at the title next year.
As for Smith, his eyes are now set on a new title, that being state champion. Smith has competed in the regional spelling bee championships and has even advanced to the state finals but is yet to claim the prize.