SMITHFIELD — Mizzle? Is that even a word? Apparently so, as it eliminated Clayton Middle School spelling champion Siara Lusk from the Johnston County Spelling Bee that was held on March 11.
After six regular rounds and a spell off between the second and third place finishers, eighth-grader Jesse Stephenson claimed the title of victor in the Johnston County Spelling Bee. His final word was “hurricane”. Stephenson attends Southside Christian School in Clayton.
“We give all the praise and glory to God,” said his mother, Sonya Stephenson, who also acted as his coach. Jesse said nerves were an issue before the event, but that he overcame his nerves by realizing, “God had it written on my life whether or not I would win before I was even born.”
The 14 spellers that participated all survived the opening round. Then, little by little, contestants fell out of the competition. Finally, in round five only three remained. Lusk, an eighth grader was knocked out of the sixth round with the word, “mizzle”. Following her, Morgan Barnes, a sixth grader from Cleveland Middle School went down with the word “toboggan”. Then Stephenson clinched the win with “hurricane”.
Since the second and third place finishers went out in the same round they had a spell off to determine the finishing placement.
The spell off was a nail biter. In the fifth round of the spell off, “syntax” was misspelled by both contestants. Finally, in the sixth round of the spell off, Barnes correctly spelled “castanets” to win the second place slot.
As the winner of the bee, Stephenson earned a Miriam Webster dictionary and a week-long trip to Washington D.C. There he will participate in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee with middle schoolers from across the nation. The competition takes place May 28-30.
“He brought it on himself,” said his father Mike Stephenson with a laugh about the extra studying Jesse will do to prepare. In anticipation of the Johnston County bee, the Stephensons studied words from previously published “Spell-It” manuals and from Dictionary.com. “We studied based on the amount of other homework Jesse had,” said his mother.
Southside Christian School’s spelling bee took place in October, so Stephenson has been preparing for the county event for several months. “This was a long time coming,” said Stephenson’s school administrator Jenene Davis. “He’s been really close to winning the school spelling bee for the last three years.”
Stephenson says he’s looking forward to the trip to Washington D.C. He has not been there before and is eager to visit the landmarks, “Especially the Lincoln Memorial,” he said.