Student harnesses a win at local spelling bee

Rishi Patel, left and Caleb Keener, right, advanced to the finalist round of the 90th annual Doris Bray Spelling Bee Jan. 27. Keener took first place and will advance to the district-level competition.

photo credit: Shellie Smitley

Participants of the 90th annual Doris Bray Spelling Bee lined up for a photo after the 245-word competition. Left to right, runner-up Rishi Patel, champion Caleb Keener, Cad Braswell, Ryleigh Hilsman, Eva Breda, Dylan Willard, Wyatt Howard, Anna Kate Hill, Kentucky Outlaw and Gemeris Williams.


Shellie Smitley

Tension filled the air as the students, ranging from fourth to eighth grade, competed in the 90th annual Doris Bray Spelling Bee Jan. 27, in the board room of the Morgan County Board of Education.

Ten students nervously stepped in front of a panel of four judges. The contest, sponsored by the Morgan County Association of Educators, commenced with two practice rounds of vocabulary in preparation for the district-level competition Feb. 24.

Retired educator Mary Pickles announced the words the students spelled. The room filled with laughter when Pickens mistakenly spelled “hen,” the first word in the practice round of the spelling portion.

“They may not call me back next year,” she said jokingly.

All the contestants survived the first five rounds of the competition. The room was thick with silence while the judges waited for sixth-grader Eva Breda’s response.

“Dither, d-i-t-h-e-r, dither,” she said correctly.

The word “cosmic” tripped up the first contestant, eliminated during the sixth round. Round nine brought two more eliminations. Seventh grader Caleb Keener looked up the ceiling and sighed relief after he spelled “breakfast” correctly.

After another elimination in round twelve, the next round began with six contestants. Eighth-grader Dylan Willard smiled after spelling “hoarsely.”

Round 15 proved to be a tough round. It began with five contestants and ended with three.

Keener, fifth-grader Kentucky Outlaw and fifth-grader Rishi Patel battled for 24 rounds. The boys weathered words like “tete-a-tete,” “Kilimanjaro” and “ichthyosaurus.”

Eventually, Keener took first place and Patel placed runner up. Keener looked out the crowd of approximately 25 and gave the thumbs up after spelling ‘harness,’ the final word for the day.

Keener studied 30 minutes per day in preparation for the system-level event. He is a little more nervous about the district-level competition at Putnam Elementary in a few weeks. The students must know definitions in addition to correct spellings.

  1. is going to be harder than this was,” he said.
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