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Jordan Carter, a home-schooled student from Sims, took first place in the 30th annual Wilson County Spelling Bee on Wednesday.
The 14-year-old eighth-grader outlasted 59 competitors from six traditional public schools, two public charter schools, three private schools and three home schools to earn the top spot at the event held at Hardy Alumni Hall on the campus of Barton College.
Jordan will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 26-31 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center National Harbor, Maryland outside Washington. Finals of the competition will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Carter is the daughter of Mary and Aaron Carter.
Jordan said she studied for the spelling bee 30 to 45 minutes a couple of days each week.
“I would say a lot of practice not just testing them orally but reading through them,” Jordan said. “That’s important. “We would look up the words in the dictionary, but mostly it was me and my little sister writing back and forth.”
Jordan’s little sister Reagan, a sixth-grader, placed seventh in the event.
“I am just so proud of her that she was able to do it and keep up with her regular school work and her extracurricular activities,” Mary Carter said. “It’s not something she could do full-time. I don’t let her cut out anything else to do the spelling bee.”
Jordan, who said she wants to pursue a career as a counselor for teenagers, said the bee helped her handle pressure.
“I didn’t necessarily want to do it in the first place, but it was very fun to go through it,” Jordan said.
Jordan had advice for any youngster seeking to compete in the spelling bee.
“Read through all the words. Look up the hard ones in the dictionary,” Jordan said. “The definitions and the pronunciations really help. Find someone to test you.”
Jordan won the bee by spelling the word trattoria in the 39th round.
That was after Beatrice Sangangbayan, a student from Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education, failed to spell comandante.
Beatrice and Jordan went 22 rounds together in a battle of skill, successfully spelling words like ostentatious, magnanimous, poltergeist, hedonism, azimuth, inselberg and saboteur.
“It was intense. It was so close,” Beatrice said. “Nobody knew what was going to happen. I just let it be, but I was still trying.”
Jordan called Beatrice an “amazing” speller.
“It was nerve-racking. I didn’t want her to get out either. She was really sweet,” Jordan said. “The pressure was definitely there. She’s amazing.”
Third-place finisher Drew Witter, also a home-schooled student, found himself tripped up on the word koan in round 16, but only after having correctly spelled several tough words like pundit, exuberant, sayanara, origami, duenna, gregarious, virtuosa and bayou.
Beatrice said her method for studying included making index cards of all the words she had to spell and then rewriting them some more.
“I studied mostly by myself,” Beatrice said. “I looked up pronunciations like I did last year because that’s really important. If you don’t even recognize the word when they say it, you are going to get it wrong anyways. I did that for two or three months.”
Her advice to young spellers is to be confident in yourself and work.
“Prepare for it like it’s the last time you are ever going to do it,” Beatrice said. “Don’t get discouraged no matter how overwhelming all of the words might be. Break all of the words down into syllables. Study pronunciations a lot. Make sure you get really familiar with the words.”
“It is very exciting to know that they have prepared and studied and gotten ready for this. Some of them are just good natural spellers, which is just fantastic,” said Janet Beaman, a recorder for the event. “Each spelling bee is different. This year at one point, we did jump ahead to some more difficult words to challenge the students.”
The Wilson Times Publisher Keven Zepezauer said this is the 30th year the newspaper has sponsored the Wilson County Spelling Bee.
To kick the event off, Times Chairman and CEO Morgan Dickerman introduced a special guest, head coach Chip Hester of the Barton College Bulldog football team, to encourage the competitors.
“Congratulations on representing your families and your schools, so go get them today,” Hester told the competitors.
Zepezauer said Carter’s first-place win earned her a trophy along with travel and hotel accommodations for Carter and her family to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, plus $1,000 in spending money.
“That’s pretty big,” Zepezauer said.
Rebecca Godwin served as the spelling bee’s pronouncer. Chief judge was Timothy Wright. Judges were Robin Williams and Donna Richards. Recorders were Teresa Parker and Janet Beaman.