Home-schooler Barnes wins county spelling bee

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It took 70 rounds to determine the winner of the Wilson County Spelling Bee Thursday at Barton College.

But 50 of those rounds were between the top two spellers, both of whom are home-schooled.

Sixth-grader Nathaniel Barnes and eighth-grader Olivia Pedigo breezed through the early rounds with words like mosque, cognition and adjacent.

Then words like pumpernickel, extravaganza, asterisk and percolate seemed to be no challenge at all.

By the end of round 13, the original field of 50 competitors from Wilson County Schools and homeschools had been whittled down to just three. All of the others had been knocked out by words like teriyaki, filibuster, haiku and juggernaut.

Third-place winner Isabelle Pedigo, sister to Olivia, hung in there through round 18, having successfully spelled tough words like boysenberry, macadamia, malihini and Meistersinger, but it was the word camphor that was her undoing.

Second-place winner Olivia Pedigo went to the National Spelling Bee two years ago as a sixth-grader and she showed brilliance successfully spelling words like poltergeist, troika, herpetology and ephemeral.

Pedigo and Barnes went so many rounds toe-to-toe that judges had to skip forward to the hardest of words, like symbiosis, trattoria, coloratura and infinitesimal.

The contest went on and on.

“We’ve never gone beyond 20 or 25 (rounds) and I have been doing this for 25 years,” said chief judge Frank Eagles.

About three hours in the contest, Barnes captured the top spot by spelling the word epithelium.

“This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to restudy all 1,100 words,” Barnes said.

He is the son of Jennifer Tuttle and Christopher Barnes.

Barnes will frequently ask for the language origin of words as a clue.

“The reason I go for the origin is a lot of the words I know, if somebody gives me the origin, it will be a lot easier for me to spell,” said Barnes. “There are many letters that Slavic languages don’t use and plenty of letters that Greek doesn’t use.”

Barnes said the most challenging word of the day for him was symmetrophobia.

Pedigo will frequently ask for the word to be used in a sentence.

“The lady in charge of our homeschool spelling bee, she says to ask for sentences and I realized that,” said Pedigo. “And my dad says that I should spell the word in my head while they are saying the sentence and that really helped. Jesus was with me the whole way and he got me this far. I love words and I love to read, so I’ll continue to learn words that way.”

Olivia and Isabelle are the daughters of Thomas and Susanne Pedigo.

Thursday’s contest was held at the Hardy Alumni Hall at Barton College. The Wilson Times served as the event’s primary sponsor. Pronouncer was Rebecca Godwin. Judges were Martha Vick and Christina McNair. Recorders were Teresa Parker and Debbie Boykin.

Barnes will now travel to the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held in Washington, D.C. on May 28 and June 4.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 265-7818